Employee absence is a significant cost for employers.
Employees are absent for an average of 6.4 days per annum
Why should business manage sickness absences in the workplace
Absence management helps to support employees to stay in work or return to work when they have been unwell.
Often employers find it difficult to find the balance between providing support to the employee while they continue to work or to assist their return
to work and taking firm action to ensure that absence policies are not taken
advantage of, these policies should be within the employee handbook.
Employers should record all correspondence with employees when dealing with
absence, such as phone calls and meetings.
Line managers role in absence management
A key part of managing absence is the role of line managers. Line managers
or supervisors are the first point of contact for an employee when they report
an absence and when they return to work.
Line managers link the employees to the owners of the business, therefore it
is essential that managers develop and maintain a good relationship with employee
to manage absenteeism. Employers should provide training for line managers to
equip with the skills to have the confidence to consider the wellbeing of the
people they manage, while ensuring their working environment suits their
Line managers should monitor continuous absence and patterns of absence and
implement appropriate procedures when necessary.
While line managers have responsibility for absence management, it is
imperative that employees are aware of the company’s absence management
procedure. Employees should be made aware of this during the induction
Check out our YouTube video for more information on absence management.
Short-term and long-term sickness absence
Sickness absence is either defined as short-term or long-term absence.
Short-term is often easier managed and can be dealt with using absence policies, disciplinary procedures and occupational health. It is important for employers to have effective absence policies and return-to-work procedures in place to form part of an effective attendance management strategy.
Long-term absence can be challenging to manage and requires management from both HR and the employee’s line manager. Regular communication, including well-being meetings and appointments with OHC, can help to manage long-term absence.
How we can help your business with absence management
When you sign up for our retained monthly package, we include HR software which helps in monitoring employee’s absences, further to this, our HR consultants are on hand with unlimited calls and emails helping to guide you through the process.
By outsourcing HR you add another layer of protection to your business and keep yourself on the right side of employment law.
FAQs on Sickness absence management
Managing Sickness Absence:
- Clear sickness absence policy
- Reporting procedure for reporting sickness
- Keep records of all sickness absence
- Return-to-Work interviews
- Offer support and make reasonable adjustments if necessary
- Monitor patterns of sickness
- If sickness is long term seek medical professional opinions
- Maintain communication with employee
- Training managers on how to handle absences
There’s no fixed “acceptable” level of sickness absence in the UK. It varies by industry and job type.
Employers often use industry benchmarks and their historical data as a guide. However, it’s essential to manage absences fairly, considering individual circumstances and legal provisions, like the Equality Act 2010.
As of my last update in January 2022, the biggest causes of sickness absence in the UK were mental health issues, including stress, depression, and anxiety. Musculoskeletal problems, like back pain, were also significant contributors.
However, this does change year on year.
In the UK, there’s no fixed number of sick days that automatically leads to disciplinary action. The process of managing sickness absence is usually determined by an employer’s specific policy and should be clearly set out in the employment contract or employee handbook.
Factors to consider include:
- Frequency of absences
- Pattern of absences
- Nature of illness
- Company policy
If an employee is frequently sick, it’s essential to approach the situation compassionately while ensuring business continuity. Begin with a return-to-work interview to understand the nature of their illness.
If absences persist, consider seeking medical or occupational health advice to establish if adjustments are needed. Regularly review sickness records, maintain open communication with the employee, and ensure you’re following the company’s absence policy and legal guidelines throughout the process.
Always aim to strike a balance between supporting the employee’s well-being and meeting the operational needs of the business.
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