Around a third of Jersey and Guernsey employers see sickness and absenteeism as a “big worry”, and an “increasing or significant issue”, an employment conference survey has revealed.

These are among the findings of polls of senior HR professionals and business leaders at Walkers’ two-day Channel Islands employment law conference on “navigating ill health in the workplace” which featured sessions from the firm’s Jersey and Guernsey employment law teams.

The key findings included that:

– 50% say sickness and general absenteeism within their workforce is a “concern” whilst 30% say it is a “big worry”

– 80% are running internal training for managers to address their concerns and almost 50% will be reviewing contractual documentation and sickness policies / procedures

– 65% say that the mind-set of employees or line managers is the main challenge for them when supporting an employee’s return to work

– 57% say not sufficiently understanding the health condition or how best to manage it in the workplace is a challenge they experience when supporting employee’s return to work

Sarah Ash, group partner in Walkers’ top-tier ranked Guernsey employment law team and head of the Channel Islands Employment Practice Group, urged employers to organise training for their workforce and to upskill managers and senior leaders who will ultimately be responsible for managing sickness absence and related issues effectively. In addition she encouraged employers to review policies and procedures now, if they have not recently done so.

She said: “Guernsey’s discrimination law landscape changed on 1 October 2023 with the introduction of the new Guernsey discrimination law. Between this legislative change and the growing concern over absences, local employers should be prioritising training their workforce and updating their policies and procedures to actively mitigate the legal risks in this area.”

Daniel Read, partner in Walkers’ Jersey employment law team, added: “In a competitive labour market early engagement and intervention with employees is key to managing absences and successfully bringing employees back into the workplace. All too often issues are left until the absence has become a problem. Employers need to actively and consistently manage absences, obtain appropriate medical evidence, and look at reasonable adjustments to help their employees return to work.”

The conference welcomed almost 200 attendees over two days, one in Jersey and one in Guernsey. The Walkers speakers were joined by doctors specialising in Occupational Health, who provided tips on how employers and doctors can best work together.