Unfortunately, absence is an occurrence we cannot avoid. There are genuine cases where employees need to take time off due to illness or an emergency and there are other instances where you have some employees taking time off every month. Absence management is designed to reduce absenteeism through policies and procedures.
In order to have an effective impact, these policies and procedures will need to be communicated to both employees and managers, and then most importantly pro-actively applying them.
Any absence policy should provide a fair and consistent process so the employees can see how absence from work will be measured. There should also be provisions to support employees with genuine issues in attending work and methods for reducing absence i.e. flexible working.
The policy should cover the procedure that should be followed when an employee is unable to work such as:
• who they should inform
• how – i.e. telephone or email
• a time the absence has to be reported by
There should be a clear process (consistently applied) when an employee returns to work, such as a return to work interview following any period of absence and perhaps a work plan following a long period of absence.
There should be a statement covering pay arrangements, including whether the organisation provides the statutory minimum or enhanced sick pay for a set period. The policy should also explain what happens when absence becomes a problem and when it may constitute a disciplinary issue.
Recording absence levels allows you to monitor each employee, and tools such as the Bradford Factor allow you to highlight frequent short-term absences more easily.
Return to work interviews are an effective way of reducing absence. They provide an opportunity for ‘open and honest’ communication between employees and managers and can help avoid a situation where any problem escalates.
Communication with an employee on long-term absence is key, whether by phone, letter or home visit, to understand the situation and, where appropriate, plan a return to work. Returning to work after a long period of absence should not be under-estimated. There can be physical and emotional barriers that need to be considered and in some, this might require the intervention of a doctor or referral to an occupational health provider.
An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) can also be useful in managing absence as schemes often provide counselling to employees which could help them to overcome ongoing issues.
Many small employers can ‘put their head in the sand’ when it comes to absence management but avoiding or ignoring the issue often leads to more complicated situations. If you have issues with employee attendance, we can assist you in achieving successful outcomes. Please get in touch here.