January 2018

2017 ABSENCE TRENDS Are Mondays the worst day of the week?

SHROPSHIRE CHEF ' SPIKES ' VEGAN Should the chef be prosecuted?

CHANGES TO OUR EMPLOYMENT LAW PROCEDURE What to do when contacting your consultant


2017 ABSENCE TRENDS 2017 i s t he yea r t ha t Na t i ona l S i ck i e Day and B l ue Monday o f f i c i a l l y b i t t he dus t .  Instead, statistics released by the ELAS Group show a new trend for increased absence on Mondays throughout the year, with January, November and December being the months employers should watch out for.  The absence rate on Mondays remains almost DOUBLE that of Fridays (23.5% compared to 13.2%), in a survey of 9,700 employees at 81 companies across the UK. With the exception of Tues 3rd Jan (the day with the highest absence rate in the first half of the year), all other days in the top ten fell on a Monday. May had two bank holidays which explains why it was the only month where Tuesdays had a higher absence rate. Employees are most likely to call in sick between 7-8am, with 7am on Monday 11th Dec coming in as the hour with the highest number of sick calls. It’s important to note that this date had the highest overall absence rate out of the year and was the day on which the UK saw widespread snow. Almost a quarter of all absences on Monday 11th December were due to the snow (22%); it’s also the reason why December clocked up the highest average absence rate despite the festive period.


April is, once again, the healthiest month with the fewest number of absences, both in total and when you look at the average rate per week. National Sickie Day fell on 6th Feb this year which did not even rank in the top ten days with the highest absence rates – whether this is due to publicity surrounding the day leaving employees feeling that they need to make more of an effort to come into work or better absence management policies in place meaning people are less likely to pull a sickie, we don’t know. Whatever the reason, this can only be good news for employers.

Highest Absences:

1 . Mon 11 t h Dec * s now 2 . Mon 2nd Oc t 3 . Tue s 3rd J an 4 . Mon 20 t h Nov 5 . Mon 27 t h Nov 6 . Mon 30 t h Oc t

7 . Mon 9 t h J an 8 . Mon 23rd J an 9 . Mon 25 t h Sep t 10 . Mon 13 t h Nov

Times to Call In:

1 . 7am – Mon 11 t h Dec * s now 2 . 7am – Mon 6 t h Feb * Na t ’ l S i c k i e Day

3 . 7am – Mon 2nd Oc t 4 . 6am – Mon 27 t h Nov 5 . 7am – Mon 20 t h Ma r ch 6 . 7am – Mon 25 t h Sep t 7 . 7am – Mon 30 t h Oc t 8 . 7am – Mon 20 t h Nov 9 . 7am – Mon 13 t h Nov 10 . 7am – Mon 9 t h J an =10 . 7am – Mon 27 t h Nov


Enrique Garcia is an employment law consultant for ELAS. He says: “ELAS has been at the forefront of absence management for the last decade and we originally coined the phrase National Sickie Day after identifying a trend for increased absence on the first Monday in February. To help employers tackle the growing trend for sickies, we developed Attendance Pro, the first absence management software to identify and track absences, allowing employers to see where problems might lie. As awareness of National Sickie Day grew so did our software, helping employers to always stay one step ahead and reducing clients’ absence rates by up to 62%. “The statistics don’t lie. Ten years later we’re able to see that times have moved on and National Sickie Day as we know it is no more. There is, however, a developing trend showing for increased absence rates on Mondays which remains consistent throughout the year. Our absence management specialists first picked up on this shift in 2016 and now our 2017 statistics have again highlighted it. “Of course genuine absences cannot be helped. It’s impossible to tell whether or not it’s purely coincidental that the absence rate on Mondays is so high or if people are taking advantage and looking to extend their weekend but employers need to be aware of this growing trend. Frequent absenteeism, or sickies, is a problem that costs the UK economy approximately £73 billion a year. “Systems such as the Bradford Factor are particularly useful as they heavily weight against frequency of absence. This means that they don’t punish genuine sickness absences but rather short, frequent absenteeism. It also helps identify any patterns of absence e.g. someone who calls in sick regularly on a Monday or after pay day. "ELAS has been at the forefront of absence management for the last decade"


“We’ve heard some outrageous excuses for absence over the years and, once again, 2017 didn’t disappoint. As incredulous as some of these excuses sound, they are all real calls that were taken by our ELAS consultants in the last year.” Enrique Garcia continues: “It is acceptable to challenge employees on their reasons for or levels of absence, especially if you identify a pattern that may lead you to believe these absences are not caused by genuine sickness. Whilst the employer whose employee called in as they were still drunk should be grateful that they didn’t drive to work under the influence, they should probably have a word with them about priorities, responsibilities and expectations when it comes to attendance.

“Employers should ensure that they have robust return to work procedures in place, part of which should be discussing in detail the reason for absence. Should a health issue be suggested, the employer could follow up by seeking to obtain a medical report; this will reveal whether or not the employee is properly addressing any underlying medical condition. Notes from all return to work meetings should be retained in case they need to be referred back to at future meetings with the same employee.”

Note these statistics don’t differentiate between genuine absences and those which might not be.

The average absentee rate was calculated by taking the total daily absence rate for each month and dividing it by the number of weeks in the month.

Worst Excuses for 2017:

1. I have to move house today and only found out last night 2. I’ve broken my fingernail and my finger is sore

3. My daughter has booked for me to go to the Emmerdale set today as a Christmas gift 4. There’s a mouse in my kitchen, I’m terrified of it and have to find a way to get it out 5. I fell off a stepladder while getting boxes out of the loft and injured my arm. I could have

broken the fall but didn’t want to damage the Christmas decorations 6. I’m unable to come to work today as the sun is making me feel sick 7. My dog has heatstroke 8. I’ve got indigestion 9. I’m too sunburnt 10. I went to a wedding over the weekend and am still too hung-over =10. I’m still drunk



When the chef/owner of a restaurant in Shropshire wrote on Facebook that she had ‘spiked’ a vegan guest, the reaction was strong. Laura Goodman wrote two posts on Saturday 30th December saying: “Pious, judgemental vegan (who I spent all day cooking for) has gone to bed, still believing she’s a vegan”, and: “Spiked a vegan a few hours ago.” The posts triggered a frenzy on social media, with some even calling for the chef to be charged with assault. Fiona Sinclair is director of leading food safety consultancy STS; she takes a look at this story from the food safety legislation perspective. “It’s my understanding that Shropshire Council is investigating this incident. Rather than a food safety problem i.e. something in food that is capable of causing harm or injury, this appears to be, potentially, more of a food standards issue.

“Under Section 14 of The Food Safety Act 1990 it is an offence to sell, to the prejudice of the purchaser, any food which is not of the nature demanded by the purchaser. This means that a customer is served something different from what they had ordered e.g. if a customer ordered vegan pizza and the restaurant used non vegan cheese. Although we do not yet know what happened in this case, what food was served or what the chef meant by ‘spiked’, using a non vegan ingredient in a vegan dish could potentially be considered under this offense. “Furthermore, under section 15 of the Act it also an offense to sell food that is falsely described or labelled, which is misleading as to the nature, substance or quality of the food, so this and other similar offences under food safety and trading standards legislation may be something that the council is looking into.


“If Shropshire Council decides there is enough evidence to bring charges against the chef and she is found guilty, these types of offenses can attract fines of £20,000. “It is debatable as to whether the self confession style posts made by the chef owner would be sufficient, robust evidence on which to base a prosecution. Even if Shropshire Council were satisfied that there was sufficient evidence that an offence has been committed, any decision to consider formal action would depend on whether or not they consider it is in the public interest to do so. “On one hand we could say that this was a naive, one off occurrence and the torrent of negative feedback the restaurant has received will be punishment enough – the chef and her husband have already backtracked on the claims in an attempt to do damage control, saying they were merely ‘flippant’ and she had written the comments after ‘having too much to drink’. They will surely regret their actions and the business will suffer from negative ratings, lack of trust and bad publicity.

“On the other hand the public place great trust in whoever is preparing their food and expect the fact that preparation happens behind closed doors to have no effect on the nature or quality of food that they receive. Should an example be made of a chef who appears to have exploited this trust in order to ensure that they take customer choices seriously? Regardless of a food handlers personal beliefs regarding food preferences, it’s important that they serve exactly what the customer has ordered. This would be the same whether they had ordered vegan, vegetarian, halal, kosher, nut free or any other allergen free food.” “If Shropshire Council decides there is enough evidence to bring charges against the chef and she is found guilty, these types of offenses can attract fines of £20,000.

EMPLOYMENT LAW ADVICE PROCEDURE As an ELAS client, your very own employment law consultant is only a phone call or email away. Whenever you need them, all you have to do is reach out and we’re here to help with whatever issues you are having. To help us better help you we’ve changed our procedures slightly. This won’t affect you in any way, other than to mean you receive faster, more structured advice. From now on, please ensure that you include the following information when contacting your consultant via email:

1. Quote your company name or       client ID number

2. Quote your employee's name      and their length of service

3. Give an outline of the issue      you are contacting us about

Ensuring that these three points are included in any correspondence will give your consultant all the information they need to provide you with the best possible advice.  It will also free up the time you would otherwise spend answering follow up emails/phone calls from our consultants asking for this information meaning you can get on with what you do best – running your business.


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