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Staff continually off sick? Top tips for absence management

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by Startacus Admin

absense management
Staff continually off sick? Exploring health & wellbeing at work, absence management and presenteeism and leavism in the work place.

When an employee calls in sick, it’s acceptable as it’s only natural to have sick days every once in a while. When this behaviour becomes repetitive, it’s the business that feels the negative effects. As the cost to hire temporary talent increases, so does the administrative hassle and work load.

As an employer, if you are tolerable from the beginning of the cycle, it can be difficult to fight off non-essential employee absences. If you firmly manage absences early, staff will recognise that there is an expectation to be present at work, unless they fall genuinely ill.

Health & Wellbeing at Work

The CIPD survey report on ‘Health & Wellbeing at Work’ dissects the factors which contribute towards stress related absences. It found that 37 per cent of organisations reported an increase in stress related absences, showing that mental strain on the workforce is a large factor. The following breakdown consists of the main three factors which cause stress, resulting in employee absences:

1)     High volume of work (60%)

2)     Management style (32%)

3)     Non-work related, relationships and family (27%)

Employers have a legal responsibility to protect employees from feeling stress at work as a result of excessive workloads, demands from management staff and unmanageableabsense management work schedules. This can lead to a lack of motivation, withdrawal from social interaction, mood swings and aggressive behaviour. As a result, employees may be forced to take sick days in order to take a break from working life and to relieve stress.  

Dealing with employee absenteeism

Return to work interview - The report found that a return to work interview is the most popular method to manage both short term and long term employee absenteeism. The approach to monitor, review and deter non-essential absences is effective for employers as this addresses the cause and produces a detailed record of the absence.

This also creates the opportunity to discuss protecting the health and wellbeing of the employee. By monitoring absences, you are able to spot patterns and actively track the frequency of absences.

Request a fit note – Requesting a fit note from a staff member after seven days, including non-working days such as weekends, can verify that the employee is medically ill by a GP or doctor. By doing so, you can ensure that the employee legitimately requires an authorised absence due to sickness.

Adjust working style – If an employee is able and willing to work, but they are restricted due to health reasons, what adjustments can you make as the employee?  Here are some of options you can consider:

-       Offer limited hours for a temporary period such as part-time, allowing the employee to gradually adapt to working life

-       Allow the employee to take on different duties which they are physically able to fulfil

-       Provide the necessary equipment to allow the employee to carry out their duties, for example, back support, foot rest, adjustable chair

By adjusting the work environment, the staff member may be able to fulfil their work duties, rather than taking full sickness absence in fear of underperforming.

absense managementClarify your sickness policy – The sickness policy for your business should be easily accessible and communicated to employees through their contract of employment. This should also be made clear during the induction session.

Reward strong attendance – If a staff member takes pride in their strong attendance record and their absence rate is below average, reward them. By doing so, your employees will recognise that you value attendance and will be incentivised to maintain consistent attendance.

The CIPD report found that the average level of absence levels is 6.6 days per employee, per year. When analysing the data further, public sector absence was highest at 8.5 days and the private sector at 5.6 days.

Some places of employment enforce an attendance incentive scheme. For example, for each strong quarter of attendance, the employer will award a small bonus.

What is presenteeism and leavism in the work place?

Presenteeism may be a contributing factor towards why employees are repetitively absent. Presenteeism is when employees work while they are sick, which prolongs their illness due to overworking, exhaustion and deteriorating health.

Leavism is when staff fulfil work duties while taking annual leave or unpaid days. If staff work habitually whilst taking a break from work, this could affect employee wellbeing, resulting in staff to fall sick and continually take time off work.

If the above practices are used to manage performance due to an expectation to be present at work, employees are unable to establish a work life balance which could be detrimental to their health.

In order to manage this, employers, high level management staff and low level management staff should ensure that employees feel comfortable enough to take time off when needed due to illness, aiding the recovery process.

Once absence management is in place, you will start to notice fewer inconsistencies and less project delays as a result of a strong attendance record and more participation from staff members.

Keith Tully, partner at RBR Advisory, specialises in advising companies on turnaround and restructuring solutions. He is knowledgeable in a variety of business-related topics but his specialities include acting on behalf of financial institutions and negotiating time to pay schemes with HMRC.

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Published on: 1st February 2019

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