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Blue Monday and your team

The term Blue Monday was developed in 2005 by Dr Cliff Arnall of Cardiff University’s Centre for Lifelong Learning, who created a formula to ascertain which day was the most miserable of the year. His formula took into account the weather, debt, the time since Christmas, when we are most likely to fail our new year’s resolutions and motivational levels.  

With payday a long way away, Christmas well and truly over and the weather starting to take a turn for the worse, this year the 16th of January has been named as Blue Monday. Being based in Rossendale in East Lancashire, where sickness is significantly higher than the North West and UK average, I began to wonder if the most depressing day of 2017 means you having to deal with employee absence?

Keeping your team happy on Blue Monday

Earlier in 2016 I wrote a blog discussing how you can help your team handle Blue Monday. In that post I explored how to make Blue Monday more bearable for employees in the workplace. I proposed ideas such as: providing chocolate for breakfast; cancelling meetings; encouraging employees to request time off later in the year and making the day more fun.

I hope there are some valuable tips in that post, and whether you’re a Rossendale business or not, you should definitely consider implementing some of those ideas – or others you may have – for your business. But as a business you could face more serious consequences of one of the most depressing days of the year: unplanned absence. This does beg the questions: “do people actually call in sick on Blue Monday?” If so, how do you handle it?

Do people really pull a sickie on on Blue Monday?

Although Monday 16th January 2017 has been given the title of ‘the most depressing day of year’, it’s not the day that people are most likely to take off time off work due to sickness. That dubious honour goes to National Sickie Day which this year lands on Monday 6th February.

Pulling a sickie is only one of the causes of short term absence in the UK, but with businesses often reporting it to be one of the top five causes of short-term absence it’s an important one to consider. Unfortunately being able to prove a non-genuine short term absence is often very difficult. As a business owner you may instinctively look for patterns and draw conclusions about situations, when you dates such as Blue Monday are plastered in the headlines.

However, with Blue Monday being firmly in the middle of flu season, and as it follows a weekend, there is an increased likelihood you may experience employees taking time off due to a short term illness.

So if you’ve got an employee or two who have called in sick, it’s perhaps best to take a step back before jumping to the conclusion they’re ‘pulling a sickie’. Bear in mind that all employees at some point will likely have the odd day off for sickness during their employment. In fact ACAS research indicates that around 80% of all workplace absence is short-term.

Recording and monitoring absence

Of course using absence management software such will enable you to spot any employee absence trends – so you’ll be able to act if you see that one of your team calls in sick on or around Blue Monday each year.

Accurately recording holidays and sickness is essential for any business to be able to keep on top of absence issues and enables business owners and managers to spot patterns of absence that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. This is especially important when short-term absences start to become recurring or long-term absence.

If an employee is absent for more than seven consecutive days (inclusive of non-working days), they must give their employers a ‘fit note’. Hospital doctors or GPs can provide this note, which will say whether they employee is either ‘fit for work’ or ‘may be fit for work’.

If they ‘may be fit for work’ then the employer should discuss any changes that might help them return (such as a change of hours/location). Employers can take a copy of the fit note but employees must keep the original.

The cost of absence and Blue Monday

Even if a member of your team don’t take a day off, Blue Monday may end up costing your business more than you think. It has been shown that Blue Monday is also the day in which there is a surge in people starting to look for a new job.

Dealing with unplanned absences associated with sickness can be a tricky task. It requires a degree of sensitivity, empathy and patience. But with the average employee taking 6.3 days of unplanned absence per year, costing over £500 per year, this is an area you can’t afford to let slip.

Whether you’re business is based in an area of relatively high sickness rates – such as Rossendale – or not, it’s still important to try to understand the implications of sickness absence on your business. Good luck – don’t be too depressed on Blue Monday – afterall, it’s just another day and it is what you make of it.

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