Absence Management: Creating a Policy That Works

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There’s no controlling when we’re under the weather. Unfortunately for businesses, your employees are going to be sick from time to time and will require some time off work.

The way that you handle absences at work can directly affect employee morale and engagement. It’s not uncommon for employers to feel sympathetic to the welfare of their staff.

However, unexpected time off or long term sickness absence can reduce productivity and impact the business.

According to a 2016 CIPD survey, employers are currently losing up to 7.5 days per person due to sickness. This figure cost the UK economy over £500 per member of staff.

Creating an absenteeism management policy allows you to track and measure how long employees are off work for.

It also lets you identify and address any underlining problems they may be having. Issues such as workloads, working conditions, inadequate training or work-life balance.

To save time and money, most businesses are making use of online absence management tools. These tools give workers access to their attendance record. They’re now able to complete self-certification forms, upload doctor’s notes, view sickness records and more.

This article explores the different types of sickness time off. It’ll also highlight how a well thought out policy works, as well as tips for reviewing what you currently have in place.

Benefits of managing employees’ time-off

Managing sickness absences allows you to identify and address some underlying problems within your workforce. Other benefits include:

  • Retention and productivity: A fair and effective policy improves employee retention and productivity. Your workers are likely to be more productive and stay longer at a company that cares about their well being.
  • Preventing problems: It can help you to prevent smaller problems from developing into larger ones. The policy allows you to implement alternative plans when an employee is off sick. That removes any pressure for staff members to come back to work before they are fully ready.
  • Identifying patterns: Reviewing the records for staff absences provides you with data to identify patterns in the way that your staff take time off. Online management tools can highlight patterns of absenteeism such as after bank holidays or a specific day of the week. This allows you to recognise and address patterns that concern you with your employee.

Types of sick absences from work

  • Short-term time-off: Time off from work lasting less that one week.
  • Multiple short-term absences: A multitude of short term time-off from work. This could be due to reoccurring treatments.
  • Long-term absences: Time off work due to sickness that lasts longer than four weeks. A long-term sick employee is still entitled to annual leave.

Reviewing your absence management policy

It’s important to regularly review and update your policies regarding staff members that are off sick. Using Acas’s guidelines, you can create a policy that is fair to your workforce.

According to HR best practices, your policy should cover all aspects of staff absences. This includes the conditions and requirements for taking time off work due to illness. The policy should also contain the contact details for the relevant person within the company to report unplanned leave.

For accessibility and ease of use, the best place to put your absence management policy is in your employee handbook. This way all staff members get a copy when they join the company. Remember to send out email updates of any changes to the policy.

This is best to keep employees informed of any changes that may directly affect them. It’s also important to point out how these changes might affect your current absence management process to avoid confusion.

Expert advice

As part of your membership with the MIA you can speak to a Croner expert for help with any of the above issues and get free in-depth, tailored advice. Email alice@mia.org.uk or call 01403 800500 for the exclusive Business Support Helpline scheme number.

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