How Well are You Managing Employee Sickness Absence?

August 12, 2017

Employee sickness absence

Are you struggling to manage your employees sickness absence? Staff sickness is an unavoidable part of running a business.

According to the CIPD, staff sickness absence cost an average of £522 per employee in 2016. This is a substantial sum for smaller businesses.

Most employee sickness absence is genuine. 95% of short term absence is caused by minor illness. If managed correctly, sickness absence levels can be decreased. This helps you reduce business costs whilst supporting your team.

5% of short term sickness absence may not be genuine. Does your team think it acceptable to pull a sickie? Do they misuse sickness absence when they should be using other types of leave? This creates problems and costs for your business.

There are various areas that can impact on employee sickness absence.

How is your team managed? What policies and procedures do you have in place? How effective are communication and team working? Do you have any flexibility in working arrangements? All these areas can affect employee absence levels.

So how can you effectively manage employee sickness absence to reduce the impact on your business?

Absence management policy

Ensure you have a good absence management policy in place.

Your staff should understand:

  • Your short and long-term sickness absence procedures
  • Their entitlement to sick pay
  • How your business manages both genuine and unauthorised absence
  • When formal action might apply for unacceptable levels of absence
  • How they should request time off, e.g. to care for a child, and not call in sick

Sickness absence monitoring

Effective sickness absence monitoring should record not just dates, but also the reasons given for absence and specific work days missed.

This allows identification of any absence patterns and may flag underlying issues that need to be discussed further with team members.

Return to work interviews

Informal return to work interviews are very effective. They allow you to identify any underlying medical problems, or issues team members may have at work or home that impact on their attendance.

Interviews also allow you the time to properly explore solutions to absence problems. They provide a perfect opportunity to ensure your team member is fit to be back at work and, where relevant, provide you with a GP Fit Note. You’re also able to identify if they need any additional support from you, or if you should be seeking external medical advice.

Interviews are also a perfect time for you to raise any attendance concerns.

Staff may additionally be deterred from “pulling a sickie” if they know you will speak with them the next day!

Create a return to work interview template to effectively record attendance issues. This will allow you to identify evidence patterns and underlying issues and can be referred to later when needed.

Long-term sickness absence

Ensure you consider how to support staff who’ve been off with long-term sickness back into work. This may entail adjusting working patterns or having a phased return to work.

You may also want to think about alternative job roles or reduced responsibilities for team members to help them long term.

You should also consider at what stage ill health dismissal would be a reasonable outcome.

Effective communications and absence procedures

Having open conversations with your team is vital to establishing any issues they have, how you can help them, and what they need to do to improve their attendance.

Following structured absence procedures ensure everyone is treated consistently and fairly. Staff clearly understand your sickness management procedures and concerns can be raised and tackled quickly before things escalate.

Effective absence procedures also give you the confidence to manage your team and stay legal when more challenging decisions are needed.

Do you need help managing employee sickness absence? If you’d like advice on managing absence, employment law, sick pay or any other people related issues, please get in touch.

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