22 Aug 2023

How to stop employees using sick leave to take on second jobs

The cost-of-living and soaring inflation has led to some employees seeking side hustles or additional jobs to cope with financial pressures.   A recent report of an employee caught working a second full-time job while on sick leave has raised a red flag, prompting Activ People HR's Director, Adrian Lewis, to highlight the pressing need for businesses to address and prevent sick leave misuse.   The employee, who worked full-time for a council, juggled another full-time position at a housing association while ‘off sick’ – made easier as they were working at home during a COVID lockdown[i].  After being found out, they were sacked from both jobs, but this shows how employees can exploit the system, especially with the rise in remote working.  
Adrian says: “Businesses have always had to deal with employees pulling sickies when they are not genuinely ill, but there is a potential for this to escalate. As the cost of living continues to place additional strain on employees’ finances some may be tempted to take on another role or even misuse sick leave to work another job.
“The rise of side-hustles and the trust placed in remote workers adds further complexity to the issue and demands that employers have clear policies and boundaries to ensure these don’t impact on an employee’s full-time job.”
  A recent survey by Utility Warehouse[ii] showed that more than one in three UK adults now have multiple incomes, and estimated that by 2025, 47% of the adult population could be earning an extra income, compared with less than 10% in 2017. The top reasons cited are the cost of living crisis (35%) and the impact of rising household bills (34%).  
Adrian adds, “One way for employers to monitor any impact on an employee’s wellbeing from working extra jobs, as well as ensuring they don’t abuse the sick leave policy, is to invest in HR tech that supports remote working, such as absence management software.
“This software enables managers to track and monitor absences with ease and spot patterns of behaviour, plus it prompts back-to-work interviews every time an employee is off sick, providing a safe place to speak with an employee in confidence. While this approach may not be completely foolproof, it can help managers stay informed and engaged in their team’s wellbeing. It could also signal a warning if something doesn’t seem quite right.
“For instance, it may highlight cases where an employee is frequently taking time off due to stress and anxiety stemming from work pressures or financial concerns. It could also indicate situations where an employee might be working excessive hours or engaging in another job, which warrants further investigation.
“At a time when everyone is facing financial challenges, it’s vital for businesses to prioritise both employee welfare and the integrity of their sick leave policy. By using technology employers can proactively address concerns and promote a supportive work environment, while helping to prevent employees abusing the sick leave policy.”
  For more information on Activ People HR visit: www.activpeoplehr.co.uk.