How to effectively manage employee absenteeism

Alan Price – CEO at BrightHR

August 20 2015

Effective management of absenteeism will usually involve finding a balance between providing support and help to employees with health problems to allow them to stay in and return to work and taking a consistent, firm stance against employees who try to work the system. In most cases, early intervention, clear communication and an effective absence policy are key to address this issue. An important element in managing absence is to introduce and implement a clear and accurate measuring and monitoring system. Common systems for this include the Bradford Factor, though it is possible to devise and carry out one completely tailored to the business. The system should be capable of identifying trends, highlighting any issues and should contain a trigger point whereby this will indicate further action is necessary. Monitoring should also be carried out when the employee returns to work through Return to Work interviews. These should be held for each occurrence of absence whether these are for one day or ten and should include recording a reason for the absence and asking the employee whether they require any adjustments to allow them to improve their attendance at work. Whilst return to work interviews should be carried out for all genuine absences, it is likely that they will deter fake absences because employees will weigh up whether their day off is worth having to account for their absence following their return. Generally, repeated instances of short term absence can be dealt with as a conduct issue. Staff should be aware that their behaviour will not go unnoticed and persistent sickness can cause high levels of disruption and uncertainty within the workplace. Long term absences are likely to need a different approach. It is important that in this situation medical advice is received, either from the employee’s GP or by referring the employee to occupational health, and that the advice is heeded and taken in to account. More support and extra steps are likely to be necessary to ensure the employee returns to work and it may be worth considering methods such as a phased return to allow the employee to adapt to their return. Adversely, however, it may be that the employee is simply not capable of doing their role and a fair capability procedure needs to be followed. Employers can also consider taking proactive steps to prevent absenteeism. Promoting employee welfare and implementing employee benefits such as keep fit or healthcare classes could reduce this issue. Also services such as Employee Assistance Programmes, which offer an external, confidential counselling service to allow staff to discuss their issues, may be costly but this cost is likely to be lower than the cost of absence to the business. For further advice on absenteeism please call the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.  

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