Guide

Manage absence and sickness

Managing absence and sickness: five things you should know

As an employer, you should ensure you have appropriate systems in place to manage unexpected staff absence. These absences can affect productivity and profits and can even lower morale and motivation. The following top tips will help you to better manage unexpected absence in your business.

1. Understand the reasons for employee absence: It’s important to be aware of potential factors contributing to the absence levels in your business. Reasons for absence could be personal or work-related. Some common reasons include: unsafe work practices; heavy workloads; family problems; abuse from customers; conflict at work; ill health; drug or alcohol dependency; and bad weather. See how to manage absence and sickness.

2. Put effective policies and procedures in place: You can improve the impact of absences by putting effective policies and procedures in place and applying these fairly and consistently. These should be backed up by agreeable working conditions, good management and a focus on staff motivation. Having an absence and sickness policy brings clear business benefits including lower insurance costs, higher rates of staff retention and improved productivity. Having set procedures in place can also help you to prevent small problems developing into larger ones, measure and monitor absence and identify underlying problems. Read about the benefits of having an absence and sickness policy.

3. Spend time developing your absence and sickness policy: You should develop your absence and sickness policy and procedures in consultation with line managers and workplace representatives. Your policy could include: when time off is permitted; how and when the worker should notify you of absence; when a worker should submit a medical statement from their doctor; statutory sick pay arrangements; consequences of not complying with the policy; and responsibility for keeping attendance records. Read more on what to include in absence and sickness policies.

4. Prepare for and manage unexpected absences: You should adhere to your absence and sickness policy and procedures when an instance of unexpected absence occurs. There are also a number of steps you should take to prepare for such an event: accurately record and monitor absence; train mangers on how to handle absence; provide special equipment if appropriate; and set targets for absence levels. You should also conduct return-to-work interviews after absences, interviewing sensitively to assess if there are any underlying causes. You could also develop other initiatives to encourage good attendance such as introduction of flexible working or introducing counselling and healthcare packages. See how to manage absence and sickness effectively.

5. Measure and monitor absence in your business: Monitoring absence in your business allows you to find out how much working time has been lost, where the absence occurs most, how often individual workers are absent and whether there is a pattern of absence. With this information, you should be able to take the appropriate action to improve the situation. See measuring and monitoring absence and sickness.