Introduction and Background
The work of the HR department implies responsibility for the well-being of employees, which has physical, social, cultural, and emotional sides. Therefore, HR managers have duties comparable to clinicians, especially in developing countries like South Africa, where healthcare at work is a significant source of knowledge and support for healthy lifestyles. The well-being of employees is not only the absence of disease, but also a healthy and clean environment with access to clean water, good nutrition, immunization, and services for the prevention and treatment of minor and severe diseases.
HR departments in government agencies are usually involved in healthcare at work and health education. As a result, employees are less exposed to infection risks, are better at solving psychosocial problems, have fewer family relationships problems, and less bad habits. Therefore, in public institutions, HR managers ensure higher employee motivation, reduce absenteeism and the duration and frequency of sick leave, and increase financial performance. Mentally and physically healthy employees are the core value of any company, so it seems reasonable to implement similar health and safety policies in private enterprises.
At the same time, many studies reveal the problems in the state departments of education and medicine associated with sick leave provision and the payment of compensations. In this regard, it is necessary to develop and adhere to procedures for working with documentation based on the legislation of South Africa. These are laws such as Section 195 (1) of the Republic of South Africa’s Constitution 1996, Chapter 3, Section 22 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 1997 (Sithole and Van der Waldt, 2017). These are Code of Good Practice in the Labor Relations Act 66 of 1995, Section 14 (1) of the Appointment of Educators Act 76 of 1998, Chapter 1 of the Public Service Regulations, 2001. The listed legislation regulates human resource management responsibilities, dealing with sick leave, managing disabled or incapacitated employees, absentees, and health risks.
Abbreviated Literature Review
The problem of increasing levels of sick leave and sick leave abuse and the lack of effective management practices within public sector organizations in South Africa is the subject of research by many scholars. In particular, the reasons for increased sick leave and sick leave abuse among workers of educational and medical sectors were considered. Attention was also paid to managing sick leave for employees with major depressive disorder. The most comprehensive study was presented by Sithole and Van der Waldt (2017), where they uncovered the causes of inappropriate use of sick leave by staff in educational institutions. The scholars noted that among public sector employees in education, the most common reasons for increased sick leave are unhealthy lifestyles, high workload, and demanding environment.
They also mentioned stress, poor management and leadership, and bad organizational environment (Sithole and Van der Waldt, 2017). Noteworthy, the researchers noted the need for management changes to prevent the abuse of sick leave and reduce absenteeism. The study results showed that employees often use sick leave for purposes other than illness. For example, some employees had to take sick leave, since they could not cope with the exaggerated requirements for the quality and intensity of training, and the increased training load.
Other teachers faced the problem when they were transferred to schools in different regions because there was no need for staff. These trips were fraught with financial costs, the need to adapt to new conditions, and fatigue. As a result, employees who found themselves in such a situation were more likely to take sick leave (Sithole and Van der Waldt, 2017). Another worrying trend is that many employees choose not to leave their homes and take sick leave during times of political instability or security problems in certain areas. Scholars point out that appropriate compensation or teleworking practices should exist for such cases.
There are also problems associated with insufficient compliance with the legislation’s requirements related to sick leave provision and payment of compensation. On the one hand, managers observe situations where employees feign illness to stay at home or take sick leave to deal with stress at work (Sithole and Van der Waldt, 2017). Another popular trend is the filing of applications for early retirement due to incapacity for work. After receiving monetary compensation from the state, teachers then ask to return them to work.
There are also cases when, having received compensation for incapability, former employees start their own business, which indicates their ability to work. Finally, many teachers do not tell the reason for their absence. Instead, they do not go to work in case of overload and stress and show themselves after a dismissal notice. Therefore, teachers’ behavior necessitates the appointment of replacement teachers who teach in their absence (Sithole and Van der Waldt, 2017). Scientists also note that the presented situation speaks of complex problems in personnel management. According to Sithole and Van der Waldt (2017), responsibility for developing new programs and strategies in the education area lies with the Human Resource Management Unit (HRMU) in the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education (KZN DOE). These programs aim to manage stress, overuse of sick leave, extended periods of sick leave, and absenteeism. HRMU also implements a new health risk strategy by pre-planning decreasing health risks activities, monitoring, and evaluating the intervention results.
Further, Naidoo et al. (2016) note an insufficient level of attention to employees’ health in the medical and educational sectors. The scientists conducted a study on the practices of protecting the health of medical personnel, since, due to their high workload and stress, they are often susceptible to diseases associated with occupational activities. Scientists emphasize that, despite the current interest in health workers’ occupational risks of tuberculosis, wider attention should be paid to health workers’ health (Naidoo et al., 2016). In particular, their susceptibility to mild diseases due to decreased immunity, and the risks of developing chronic diseases require special attention.
Besides, it is noted that all medical personnel, including from clinical to laboratory staff and administrators, are equally exposed to health risks. Scientists also emphasize that there is a risk of developing communicable and non-communicable diseases (Naidoo et al., 2016). Therefore, HRM departments of medical institutions must pay special attention to employee health, since the high level of sick leave carries an additional financial burden and reduces the level of services provided.
Interestingly, according to Naidoo et al. (2016), there are also frequent cases of non-compliance with procedures related to the registration of sick leave in the healthcare sector. In particular, medical workers often bring records confirming their illness after the end of the sick leave. There is also a mess in the control of available sick leave days when managers and employees do not track the number of days spent and exceed the norm (Naidoo et al., 2016). In such cases, employees are subsequently forced to compensate for sick leave payments and may find themselves in a difficult financial situation. To create a basis for managing sick leaves approval procedures, scientists devoted a separate chapter to how this process should ideally occur. This chapter describes the way for issuing incapacity leave if an employee has exceeded the sick leave limit.
Then, Van der Water et al. (2020) present the topic of compensation paid to health workers for occupational tuberculosis. Scientists emphasize those sick employees, despite payments, show low job satisfaction, high stress, and reduced motivation. Therefore, according to scientists, it is essential to develop more effective disease prevention practices. Scientists also specify the problems and difficulties associated with the procedure for filing claims for compensation, as a result of which many workers do not receive full compensation benefits, which also negatively affects their motivation.
Further, Saonatse et al. (2019) address the issue of expectations associated with return to work among employees who have received sick leave for major depressive disorder. Scientists emphasize that, despite hospital treatment’s effectiveness, it cannot last longer than 21 days, and this period is not enough to completely cure the disease (Saonatse et al., 2019). Therefore, employees retain residual symptoms, in connection with which doctors usually recommend another month of sick leave, during which they work with the patient on an outpatient basis. According to the study results, this period is often perceived negatively and can neutralize the success achieved through inpatient treatment (Saonatse et al., 2019). Employees are sensitive to inaction, think about returning to work and associated stresses, and fear stigma from colleagues. Therefore, scientists recommended introducing HR practices during this period to reduce these risks.
Significance of Research
Levels of sick leave on the enterprise usually reflect the health and well-being of employees. High ranks of sick leave indicate management problems that can cause low morale, decreased motivation, and, as a result, financial losses for the company. Therefore, adequate management of employee’s health risks and sick leave procedures are two main directions that will help reduce the level of sick leave, whether objective or subjective reasons cause it.
It should be emphasized that many studies indicate that government departments in the field of medicine and education today are faced with problems related to the management of employee health and a high level of sick leave. It can be assumed that in the private sector, HR managers often face similar challenges. Therefore, it is necessary to conduct research that will help identify the real reasons why employees of private enterprises take sick leave, including more often than prescribed by law. Understanding the problem can help respond to and eliminate the factors that affect employees’ ability to work, ensuring a healthy workplace.
Research Problem Statement
This study will examine the problems that employees face in the workplace, and which negatively affect their motivation. Today, many enterprises in the private and public sectors lack a clear health management policy. There is also a lack of data to support the real reasons why employees take sick leave.
This study aims to investigate the reasons why employees frequently take sick leave.
Aim and Objectives
This study aims to identify the reasons why employees are often absent from the workplace due to health problems, personal circumstances, or work-related problems.
Semi-structured interviews and simple questionnaires will be used for the research. Besides, based on the answers, participants will be selected to open personal interviews.
Unit of Analysis
All employees of the enterprise will be invited to participate in the research. Presumably, 20 people will participate in the study, and five more people will be interviewed in person. Therefore, each participant will be considered as a unit of analysis.
Identification of Variables
The study will consider the gender and age of the participants, which will be taken for variables.
Sample and Sample Type
Since personal problems and problems associated with stress and increased workload may differ for people of different genders and ages, sample types will be determined with this in mind. Sample types will be as follows: women aged 18-35, women aged 35 and older, men aged 18-35, and men aged 35 and older. It is expected that such a distribution will identify the specific problems for each group more accurately and distinguish the groups that provided more information and the groups that require the most attention.
Data Collection Methods
Survey participants will be able to fill out questionnaires and answer semi-structured interviews in electronic or paper form. Audio and video recording of personal interviews with participants will also be conducted.
To provide a complete panorama of the question, in addition to studying the answers of the participants, a statistical analysis of the data available to the HRM department will be carried out, which will help to determine the company’s problems related to the health of employees and the scale of these problems. A diagnostic analysis of existing data will also be carried out to develop assumptions about the causes of problems. These assumptions will be compared with the participants’ responses.
All researchers sign a non-disclosure agreement that forbids to share confidential information about research participants. Information that can be used to identify a participant is private. All data is published on the condition of anonymity, and sensitive information has been removed from reports. The study was agreed with the enterprise’s management, and the relevant state department was notified of it.
Overview of the Chapter Structure
In the Introduction section, the general situation and background will be described. The Literature Review can be expanded with a new research; in the Discussion section, the study results will be discussed compared to other existing research. In the Results section, quantitative and qualitative research results will be presented.
Research Time Schedule
It will take about three months to make the necessary preparations, interview participants, and analyze the answers and other data. The preparation will include the formation of questions for questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, selection of participants, and statistical analysis of existing data. Conducting research implies a period when participants will answer questions and a period of personal interviews. Then it will be necessary to analyze the results of the study and draw conclusions.
Each study participant will receive a small reward and a gift, and participants who agree to face-to-face interviews will receive monetary compensation.
Preliminary List of References
Naidoo, R.N., Naidoo, S. and Hariparsad, S., 2016. Disabling health: the challenge of incapacity leave and sickness absence management in the public health sector in KwaZulu-Natal Province. South African Health Review, 2016(1), pp.61-72.
Saonatse, L., De Witt, P.A. and Van Niekerk, M., 2019. Experiences and perceptions of Return to Work (RTW) by clients with major depressive disorder in an extended sick leave period. South African Journal of Occupational Therapy, 49(1), pp.36-42.
Sithole, G.B. and Van der Waldt, G., 2017. The Management of Health Risks in the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education. Administration, p.175-194.
Van der Water, N., Yassi, A. and Ehrlich, R., 2020. Workers’ compensation claims for occupational tuberculosis in South African health workers: Outcomes and workers’ experiences. South African Medical Journal, 110(5), pp.389-395.