Updated: 13th March 2020
Everyone gets ill from time to time and a couple of days away from work to rest and recover is often just what the doctor ordered. Occasional sick days are something most companies expect, and account for. While most absenteeism will be legitimate, this is not always the case. According to a survey, of the 180 million sick days UK workers took in 2009, around 27 million of these were not genuine. When deliberate absence from work by a particular employee becomes a common occurrence, it can become a big headache for bosses.
Absence from work costs employers an average of £16 billion in lost revenue and productivity every year. The UK’s largest annual survey of absence rates in the workplace revealed that sickness absence accounted for an average of 2.8% of total working time each year, the equivalent of 6.5 days per employee.
If a company has legitimate grounds to suspect an employee of abusing sick leave, they can employ the services of an investigator to check up on them and monitor their actions. Surveillance is carried out by the investigator, who then reports back to the company with evidence of any illicit activity they have unearthed.
Surveillance can be done through physical means, such as monitoring the movements and activities of the employee whilst they are supposedly too ill to work. However surveillance is increasingly done online through digital channels such as through an examination of their social media profiles. This is not limited to just checking the employees own personal account, but also looking for mentions of the individual in posts made by others. While your employee may be careful to keep their out-of-work activities off their social media profile, their friends may not be as vigilant in this regard.
The evidence uncovered is varied. Perhaps someone off work with a bad back taking part in a 5-a-side football match, someone who is signed off from their job yet still working part time in the local pub, or maybe someone who is apparently unable to leave their bed due to illness or injury yet Facebook posts show they are on holiday, at a concert, or at a party rather than recuperating at home.
As the investigation is completely above board and done through lawful channels, the evidence gathered will stand up in court and can therefore be used to support any legal action against the employee should you decide to go down this route.