Absenteeism, Long-Term Sickness


The government has revealed that as many as 960,000 employees were on sick leave for over a month each year on average between October 2010 and September 2013, more than 130 million days are still being lost to sick absence every year in great Britain and working-age ill health costs the national economy £100billion a year.

Companies in the U.K alone spend millions of pounds each year on sick pay but nobody knows exactly what percentage of that is wasted on fraudulent claims. Proving an employee is not genuinely ill or not “able to work” can be a difficult task so it must be handled with precaution or else you may find yourself facing claims of wrongful dismissal and in some situations heavy fines.

You should never make accusations unless you are absolutely positive that you are correct, employees have aright to sick pay so ensure you have sufficient evidence to support your claims before arranging a disciplinary hearing or confronting the employee. Some situations are clearer than other but you should follow the correct procedures regardless of how obvious the fraudulent claim is.

We have worked with cases of absenteeism and also long-term sickness so we know what quality of evidence will be required, the best way to obtain it and the steps that should be followed to ensure the evidence is used and the situation is handled in the correct manner.

Absenteeism & Long-Term Sickness
Have you noticed:

  • Regular patterns of absence?
  • Lack of doctors notes?
  • Unwilling to discuss absence?

Fact: Footage obtained in a cover manner can be produced as evidence in disciplinary proceedings but, as employers can’t make a medical diagnosis, don’t assume it confirms an employee is lying. The footage should be sent to a medical expert, e.g. a GP, so that they can provide an opinion on it – rely on this, not the footage, if you want to dismiss.


Case Study

One of the employees at a metal fabricators was carrying a sheet of steel and tripped over a tool he had left on the floor at his work station, as he fell to the floor he hurt his lower back. He went for an examination with the companies doctor and also his own GP, based on the symptoms and level of pain he exhibited both of the medical professionals agreed he was “sick” and unable to work.

The employee was given a sick note and deemed “unable to work” for a month, during this month the employee received full sick pay. 2 Weeks after the sick note was issued a member of the companies HR department claimed she saw the employee at a local supermarket, he was allegedly carrying what looked to be 4 or 5 heavy bags of shopping while talking and laughing with a woman she presumed to be his wife.

The female member of staff spoke with one of the directors as she was aware of the incident that had taken place and didn’t think he would be fit enough to be driving let alone carrying bags of shopping. After some thought the directors decided that they would like to find out if it was indeed the employee in question so they asked us to conduct some covert surveillance and see how he was spending his time.

We supplied a surveillance team to wait near the employees property and observe his movements, on the third afternoon of surveillance the employee left his home, got into his vehicle and drove to a local driving range. One of the detectives hired a club and went through to the driving range a few moments after the employee, using a hidden body worn camera the detective was able to obtain high quality footage of the employee playing golf and showing no signs of back pain.

After a while the detective returned to the vehicle where they waited for the employee to leave, he left the driving range in his vehicle and headed to the local supermarket where he had initially been spotted. This time the other detective followed into the supermarket and obtained footage of the employee walking around pushing a trolley and reaching high shelves, he then walked from the supermarket to his vehicle and left the supermarket.

Once the footage had been reviewed the directors sent the footage to a medical expert from a mutual third party and asked if they felt the subject shown in the footage was suffering with the injuries he had claimed. The medical expert said he felt the actions seen in the video were not that of a man who was suffering from the injuries he had claimed.

A disciplinary hearing was arranged with the employee and the directors presented him with the footage along with the statement from the GP. The employee admitted gross misconduct for fraudulently claiming sick pay and handed in his letter of resignation rather than trying to dispute the companies claims.
Covert Surveillance used in case of fraudulent sickness: Pacey v Caterpillar Logistics Services (UK) Ltd 2011


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