February 16, 2016

5 tips for managing absence

Sickness absence costs small businesses around £300, 000 a year.

The average employee takes 7 days off work sick per year at an average cost of £550 per employee per day.

Whilst absence cannot be eliminated, after all we all get sick once in a while, managing absence in a fair and consistent way can reduce costs and add value to the business. Here are 5 simple steps to help you improve absence within your organisation.

1. Ask the right questions when they call in sick?

The way you respond when the employee calls in sick can make a difference to how they feel about work. It could even affect the length of this and future, absences.

Ask the employee the following questions:

  • What’s the reasons for the absence?
  • How long do you think you’re likely to be off for?
  • Have you visited a doctor?
  • If no, do you intend to visit the doctor?
  • If yes, what was the diagnosis from the doctor?
  • Have you been issued with a fit note?
  • Are you taking any medication?
  • Is there any work you’ve been doing that needs to be picked up while you are off?

2. Set Trigger Points

When absence levels reach these “trigger points” it reminds you that absence levels have reached a point whereby investigation is required. This will not necessarily mean formal action or warnings, but will mean that further investigation into an individual’s absence levels is required.

3. Ask for medical certificates to certify the absence

  • Employees who are absence from work between 1 and 7 days must complete a self certification form.
  • Employees who are off for 7 days or more are required to provide a “fit note”.

For employees who have been off work for 4 consecutive weeks consider writing to their doctor to gain more information on their condition and their foreseeable return to work date.

4. Hold a return to work interview after every absence

Return to work meetings are essential  tools for managing absence. They provide the employee the opportunity to make you aware of any circumstances which may be contributing to their absence. They also give you the opportunity to pre warn the employee if their absence levels are reaching the trigger points, thus giving the employee plenty of notice of the consequences of any further absences.

5. Take action

If absence starts to become a problem, ensure you take the appropriate action. Sometimes an informal chat is enough to nip the problem in the bud. Don’t be afraid of moving the issues to formal disciplinary or capability procedures, whilst you can be sympathetic to the issues the employee needs to understand the impact the absence has on the business

Be careful

You need to tread carefully with employees who could be viewed to have a disability, people having time off to solve family issues and pregnant employees.

Further advice and support

The above is general guidance only.  If you would like to develop an absence management policy, develop some trigger points or have an employee who is absence from work , call is 0845 184 4615 for more specific guidance or contact us. You can also download our employee absence whitepaper.

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About the author

Gillian Smith

Gill has over 10 years HR generalist experience within the retail and industrial service sectors.Whilst providing HR support and services at the most senior levels Gill’s experience includes mergers and acquisitions, complex TUPE transfers, organisational development, and strategic change management. Gill has experience in the policy development process from design, consulting with directors and employee representatives through to implementation and delivering training workshops on the new polices. Gill currently is an HR policy consultant who services a variety of clients.