Managing absence in the heatwave: throwing 'sickies' in the sunshine

Managing absence in the heatwave: throwing 'sickies' in the sunshine


Author: Karen Fletcher

With the current heatwave, employers need to consider their strategy for keeping control of employee absences during the hot weather as employees make the most of the sun.

With Britain currently basking in a heatwave our streets seem busier than ever with people out and about enjoying the sun. Given the sheer numbers of people pictured in the media recently on our beaches, it seems quite likely that a number of these have 'pulled a sickie' to make the most of the hot weather whilst it lasts.

The need for clear communication

In order to manage employee absences effectively, employers need to communicate with all their employees to set out clearly what is and is not acceptable behaviour. It may now be an opportune time to remind staff about the formal process for requesting holiday, reporting sickness and the disciplinary policy applicable when it comes to dealing with those who take 'unofficial' time off.

Employers may need to deal with a sudden increase in holiday requests and/or a request to work different hours. As, it is unlikely that these will all be able to be accommodated, dealing fairly and consistently with requests will be key.

Disciplining employees

Employers need to keep an open mind when investigating suspected 'sickies' and must ensure they have a reasonable suspicion that someone has not been genuinely ill before invoking disciplinary procedures. This will require reasonable evidence being gathered. Of course, any fair disciplinary process will allow the employee a proper opportunity to respond to the case against them and put their side of the story before any action is taken. Employees must be allowed to be accompanied at any disciplinary meeting and offered a right of appeal against any decision to impose a disciplinary sanction.

Practical Suggestions

On a positive note, the sunshine could be a cheap and easy way to boost staff morale! Here are some practical tips for employers consider.

  • Remind and encourage employees to book annual leave if they want to enjoy the sun and that, whilst absence requests will be met where possible, employers need to ensure that business needs can still be met.
  • Remind employees that 'throwing a sickie' will be an unauthorised absence and may result in disciplinary action.
  • Consider if it is possible to allow an extra element of flexible working so that employees can take extended lunch breaks, swap shifts, take unpaid leave or temporarily change their hours.
  • Employees may admit 'throwing a sickie' on a social networking website. Whilst we do not recommend that employers go looking for this information, if it is passed to employers, they will have good grounds for invoking disciplinary action.


Setting out clear policies now will stand you in good stead for future requests from employees who wish to take time off at short notice to enjoy the sun and hopefully dissuade those who might be tempted to throw a 'sickie'.