Tips on managing absences

Staff absences are problematic for any organisation, and absence rates are at the highest they have been for over 10 years currently. With greater staff absence comes less productivity, greater company expense, less certainty and often a reduction in quality in the service your organisation provides.

There are generally no upsides to staff absences.

So managing them effectively, and helping to reduce the volume and length of absences is vitally important to any organisation. But how do you go about that?

Here are a few tips…

Have an absence management policy

As part of your standard operating procedures, you must have an absence management policy. This should be available to all staff, to make it clear what your expectations are as an organisation, and what they can expect in the event of them being unable to work during their contracted working hours.

Some of the points this policy should cover includes:

  • Your policy on sick pay and statutory sick pay
  • The procedure for providing self-certifications and ‘fit notes
  • The procedure for informing the employer or their absence and ‘calling in sick’
  • Levels of absence, trigger points and absence management stages
  • Referral to occupational health
  • Availability of any wellbeing support or company benefits

This absence management policy should become your ‘how to’ guide for managing staff absences, so ensure yours is robust and fit for purpose.

We have a free absence management policy written by our employment law partners at ‘Primed’, which you can use as a template to ensure you have all bases covered. Feel free to access it here.

Refer to occupational health

Probably the single most effective way of managing your staff absences is by proactively using occupational health. Hopefully this will already form part of your absence management policy, but even if not, engaging occupational health to support you with employee health issues is important.

Remember, in your role as a line manager or HR professional, you aren’t medically trained. So taking detailed information about someone’s health history, and trying to make a decision on someone’s working capacity based on medical factors probably isn’t appropriate.

So if you use occupational health proactively, this will help employees to remain supported in the workplace as much as possible, thereby reducing their need to be absent. It will also discourage any future absences because health concerns can be better managed.

You may wish to consider including referrals to occupational health within your absence management policy as part of your standard procedure. This could include for employees who have disclosed health concerns, employees who are evidently struggling whilst at work, employees with regular absences, employees with long-term absences, or employees who may have a disability.

To get setup with an occupational health service, get in touch with us today, and we’ll match you to the best and most cost-effective option for your organisation.

Conduct return-to-work interviews

There are loads of tutorials and templates available for conducting effective return to work interviews because they are such an effective tool.

Yet they are surprisingly infrequent amongst employers.

If an employee has been absent from work due to ill-health, then returning to the workplace can feel quite overwhelming, especially if they’ve fallen behind with work or there is uncertainty around anything.

However conducting an effective return to work interview will help you to alleviate any of the employee’s anxieties. You can also use it as an opportunity to set any expectations around absence levels, trigger points and support available. Additionally you can check-in with them from a wellbeing perspective, discussing any occupational health advice that has been received, and any short-term support measures you may be putting in place.

Not only will this improve the employee’s rehabilitation back into the workplace, it will have a positive effect on reducing any avoidable absences in the future too.

Provide access to wellbeing support

A small spend on corporate wellbeing can have a massive impact in your organisation.

All too often organisations will take an employee assistance programme as little more than a ‘tick-box exercise. Whilst this may be inexpensive, it may also be ineffective, making it a poor value option. Giving staff access to wellbeing support that actually works for them will make all the difference, because you can ensure they have the health support that will benefit them when they need it most.

This will help employees to feel supported in the workplace, mitigates the risk of absences and helps to keep staff in work wherever possible…not to mention fulfilling your duty of care as an employer.