Managing absences can be tricky, so here are some of our tips on managing absence in your company:
1. Make sure that everyone understands the rules
The best piece of HR advice is to set up a procedure for absence management before it becomes an issue. We write Absence Policies for our HR Advice Line clients to ensure staff know how to report their absence, how much they will be paid (SSP or company enhanced sick pay) and how the company will deal with persistent short term absence or long term illness.
This makes it easier to apply the policy consistently and ensure that you are fair in your dealings with absent staff.
2. Monitor absence
Managers should be given the responsibility of monitoring their own team’s absences and conducting return to work interviews with staff on the day they return. Return to work interviews have been proven to reduce short term absences as staff know they will meet with their manager to discuss their illness. However, they also help spot trends or work related issues which may be causing ill health and show that you are interested in the employee’s wellbeing.
3. Follow your own rules about sick pay
If your contracts of employment only give Statutory Sick Pay, it is important not to pay full pay for the odd day off sick. We advise our HR Advice Line clients on the importance of being consistent, not only in their treatment between employees, but also in how they treat short term and long term illness.
An employee who is paid for a day off for his Monday migraine may question why this does not apply to his 3 months’ absence for stress.
4. Set trigger points for taking action on sickness levels
There are various ways of measuring sickness levels, such as the Bradford Factor, which score absence based on the number of occasions and duration. This will put the spotlight on staff who have many one day absences over someone who has been off for 5 consecutive days with flu. Once someone’s absence score has reached a trigger point you should meet with the employee to discuss their attendance and look into any underlying medical issues. Our HR Advice line provides documents and guidance on how to deal fairly with short term or long term absences as they need different treatment.
5. Deal with short term absence
Any good Absence Management Procedure will include a series of meetings where the manager and the employee can explore the reasons for absence and whether or not there are any work based factors, underlying medical or lifestyle issues.
HR advice should be sought if managers suspect that the employee’s absence is not genuine and a medical report from their GP will often help to clarify the situation. Action plans of support and targets for attendance should be discussed and put into place.
6. Handle long term absences
It is important to keep in touch with staff who are on long-term sickness absence. Employers often ask our advice about this as they are afraid of being perceived as harassing the employee or putting them under pressure to return to work. However, if this is handled sensitively it keeps the communication channels open and makes it easier for the employee to return at the right time.
We can advise our HR Advice Line clients on how to use Occupational Health Specialists to provide expert medical opinions on when an employee might return and any adjustments that might help, such as a change of duties or a phased return.
Understanding your duties under the Equality Act is important especially where an employee may be considered to have a disability.
7. And understand the 101 other reasons why your staff may be absent!
Absence is one of the biggest issues that employers ask us about on the HR Advice line, but not all absence is related to illness. We also advise and support our employers to deal with absences such as:
Maternity, paternity, adoption, parental, shared parental, dependent emergencies, compassionate, unauthorised, jury service, holiday, religious pilgrimages, sabbaticals and snow!
Our HR Advice Line offers clients unlimited HR support and advice on all of the situations above. As your HR Advisor we can write appropriate policies, provide letters to meet the situation, attend difficult meetings with you and your staff and recommend specialists such as Occupational Health Advisors.
Information about our HR Advice line service is provided here. If you’d rather speak to us directly, here's how to get in touch.