Managing the Usual Suspects – long term absence

We’ve nicknamed our long term absentee Usual Suspect Wild Bill Ghost because no one sees him, he is like a ghost in the workplace. Usually when we start to work with a company, some number of ghosts always re-surface. There is the employee who went absent years ago. In fact, it’s been so long that no one really remembers him and the management team has since changed so his ‘line manager’ has never even met Wild Bill Ghost. But because the situation wasn’t properly managed at the time, Wild Bill still remains on the company books and in the worst case still receives monthly salary!

Long term absentees accrue holiday

Admittedly, the more common story is that Wild Bill is no longer paid wages but because his employment hasn’t been officially terminated, he continues to accrue annual leave. This means that he could come back to work any day and demand to be paid for his last 5 years holiday, which he is entitled to under court rulings. He could also demand to have his job back even if there is no longer any need for his services since the post has long ago been filled by someone else.

Always opt for early intervention

Clearly there is an issue with not properly managing long term absence. Even in cases where a return to work is not likely, it is important not to brush the case under the carpet and hope it’ll go away. And the quicker the absence can be resolved by supporting the employee back to work or by terminating the employment in the appropriate way, the better for the employer. This may require some supporting evidence from a medical practitioner and a bit of management time but in the end it will prove cheaper than paying out several years’ worth of holiday and severance pay when HR finally find out about the case and manage it.

Implementing Engage as a way to track absence is great way to discover your hidden Wild Bills. They will be lurking on your payroll sheets or employee database and a robust absence recording tool can drive them out of the shadows. It’s free to try for 30 days!