Managing absence in the workplace requires effective people management policies and a clear focus on employee wellbeing.

Most absences are genuine; however, it is essential to monitor all absences, attendance, and sickness very closely.

What is absence management?

Absence management is all about reducing employee absenteeism through a thought-out policy and process.

The most important part of implementing a policy is communicating to both employees and managers alike.

Why do you need good absence management?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, employees were absent for approximately 6.9 days per year, with the most common short-term illnesses being colds, flu, stomach upsets, headaches, and migraines, a 2019 CIPD survey found.

The impact of absence has a clear financial cost involved. However, it can also result in workplace stress or disruption for those who might be left covering extra work for others.

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, absence management has only become more critical for employers to track, with a lot more employees needing time off work to isolate or recover from illness, as well as look after vulnerable family members.

Creating absence management policies

Every business is different and where a policy works for one company, it will not be the same for another. It is important for employers to determine their own standards for absence and to let employees know what is expected of them.

Your policy should be a fair and consistent process to help managers and employees deal with absence. Employers should also consider how they can provide support for their employees and find ways on reducing absence – such as flexible working options.

All absence management policies should include the following information:

  • Who employees should contact when they are unable to work
  • How they should contact them
  • When they should contact them
  • What will happen when returning to work
  • Pay arrangements
  • What will happen when absence becomes a problem
  • When disciplinary action might occur.

Be mindful of employees’ healthcare needs and disabilities to ensure you avoid any actions that may be viewed as discriminatory.

Managing the data

Making sure to record absence levels allows for data to be measured and compared. Most commonly, the data can be used to measure each employee in line with the absence policy. This can also help to track and understand the causes of absence and indicate any underlying trends.

Sometimes, you can spot those specific departments that have higher levels of absence than others, for example. This may be related to other factors beyond just sickness, such as management approach or workload within that team.

This data can also be utilised to compare with external benchmarks in the same sector. If your business has a higher level of absence, you may want to restructure the provisions that you put in place to help reduce absence. Alternatively, your employee wellbeing policies may need a revaluation.  

At HR Caddy, we have experience in advising on frequent and short-term absences or supporting long term absences related to an underlying health condition.

We are focused on helping you fix the problem in a timely manner that is best for your business. This may include:

  • Creating absence management policies, procedures, and management guides
  • Attending absence review meetings
  • Arranging Occupational Health assessments
  • Reviewing medical reports and advising on reasonable adjustments or next steps
  • Terminating employment on the grounds of capability.

For more help or advice from our expert team, contact us today.