“I refused their holiday request, but they took the day off anyway!”

Refused Holiday

When an employee calls in sick on a declined holiday, it is a sticky situation for employers and managers. Whilst yes, the employee could just be sick. You will have a looming suspicion in your mind that this is, well, a little too convenient.

This situation happens more often than many would like to admit. So, let’s explore strategies for managing situations where an employee is sick on declined leave, ensuring fair treatment for all parties involved.

How to Manage Employees Calling in Sick on a Declined Holiday

So your employee, Alex, previously requested a holiday for today. But, there were already too many staff off, so Alex’s manager refused the request. As you were coming into work this morning, Alex’s manager approached you; Alex hasn’t turned up for work. 

There are two primary ways to deal with this situation. Did Alex call in sick as per your sickness policy, or did they not show up for work?

Called In Sick

When an employee physically calls in sick on a declined holiday, there is always a chance this could be a coincidence. So, it’s important to tread lightly and not take an all-guns-blazing approach. 

When the employee calls in sick, speak to them directly. Do not accept a voicemail or a passed-on message. Speaking directly with an employee allows you to gather some clarification and, if necessary, ask follow-up questions regarding the sickness. 

As standard procedure states, hold a return to work meeting when the employee is back. Whilst you shouldn’t accuse the employee of pulling a sickie, here are some questions you could ask to grasp the legitimateness of the absence:

Sickness Related Questions 

  • How are you feeling now?
  • What sickness were you suffering from?
  • Were you able to visit a doctor or seek medical advice?

These questions show your employee that you genuinely care about their absence whilst allowing them to come forward if they have something to confess.

If the employee has been absent for longer than seven days, you can request to see a Fit Note. If they cannot provide this, you may proceed with disciplinary hearings.

Situation Specific Questions

  • Is there anything else you would like to share about your absence? 
  • Can we discuss how we can manage situations like this in the future? 

Asking the above questions presents the opportunity for an open-ended conversation. Allowing you to express your concerns about the employee calling in sick on declined leave – and how it has impacted the company’s workflow.

Unauthorised Absence

If an employee fails to show up for work and doesn’t alert you – this is an unauthorised absence

As you have a duty of care towards your employees, the first step is to contact them to understand the reasoning behind this absence. Considering the situation, that might be obvious to you, but it’s important to rule out any unfortunate events. 

When the employee returns to work, hold a return to work interview to discuss this in further detail and determine if the absence was valid. If the employee doesn’t have an acceptable reason or you can’t deem this absence, it’s up to you whether you follow disciplinary procedures or issue a warning. Often, a warning is enough, however, it depends if this is a repeated offence. 

Your sickness absence policy clearly should state the procedure for handling unauthorised absences. 

Employment Law

After meeting with the employee and gathering information, if you feel this is a case of misconduct, then you are within your right to discipline them.

HR Consultant Lindsay Muers recently told us:

“Employment law says your decision can be based on a reasonable belief, not like in a court of law where it has to be proven, so if you genuinely believe it to be misconduct then you can discipline if you desire.”

However, even if you feel disciplinary action is justified, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should take it. 

HR Consultant Keith Phillips suggests:

“If it’s upset you that much then you can investigate and if you feel you have enough evidence to suggest they have genuinely gone absent without leave you can discipline them. But, I’d say it’s a pretty extreme response. A verbal chat to warn them never to pull the same kind of trick again would be a better route.”

Make Sure You Have The Evidence 

If you intend to discipline the employee, it is essential to have documented proof that the holiday request was submitted and subsequently denied. This is where the importance of a solid annual leave system comes into play.

The Holiday Tracker offers an efficient solution – it centralises all holiday requests, enabling managers to approve or decline them in one unified platform. Moreover, if an employee calls in sick on a declined holiday, managers will be automatically notified of this incident.

Preventing These Absences

Unfortunately, entirely preventing these absences would be nearly impossible. There will always be scenarios where you refuse a leave request and the employee is not satisfied. However, there are proactive steps you can take to reduce the occurrence of these situations.

1. Addressing Rumours

If you catch wind of a rumour about a potential unauthorised absence, it’s important to act swiftly. Directly approach the employee involved and ask them honestly about the rumour and understand their perspective. Should the rumour hold, document this conversation and warn the employee of the possible consequences. Often, this will prevent them from committing the misconduct. 

2. Clear Communication

Employees value honesty and are more likely to respect a decision when they understand its reasoning. Upon denying a leave request, clearly communicate the reasons for the denial, whether due to limited staffing during that period or crucial meetings scheduled. It’s equally important to ensure that responses to leave requests are timely, avoiding any last-minute denials that could lead to misunderstandings.

3. Robust Sickness Policy

Your company policy should explicitly outline the procedures for unauthorised absence and the misuse of sick leave. A clear, well-communicated policy sets expectations and provides a framework for managers and employees. 

Final Thoughts

Whatever the reason for the absence may be, whether the employee is genuinely sick or they feel their leave was wrongly denied, it must be handled fairly and efficiently. If you’re dealing with a valuable employee then launching into disciplinary procedures might be a heavy-handed approach, and harm the business in the long term. You must ensure correct procedures are followed and, where necessary, preventative measures have been taken.

If you’re looking to streamline your leave management processes, The Holiday Tracker offers a practical and efficient solution. It simplifies tracking annual leave requests and refusals while providing a clear audit trail of declined holidays – invaluable in cases where you need to refer back to specific incidents. Interested in seeing how it can transform your leave management? Sign up for our free trial and experience the ease and clarity it brings to managing leave and absence in your workplace.

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