Guide to absence management in the workplace

With employee absence at its highest rate since 2004 and 2.5 million people reportedly off work with long-term illnesses, having the right absence management strategies in place is more important than ever.

Danielle Ayres | Employment Partner

In any organisation, absence management is an essential part of ensuring overall productivity, employee well-being and business operations. High levels of employee absence can have a detrimental impact a business, in many ways.

With employee absence at its highest rate since 2004 and 2.5 million people reportedly off work with long-term illnesses, having the right absence management strategies in place is more important than ever.

In this blog, we explore the importance of having a solid absence management policy in place, procedures and the strategies needed to effectively manage employee absences.

What is absence management and why is it important?

Absence management is the approach taken by employers to minimise, manage and address employee absences.  This involves implementing policies and procedures to manage and track absences, and ensuring compliance with legal obligations.

Effective absence management is important for several reasons, including:

  1. Improved productivity: Regular and prolonged absences can cause disruption to businesses in many ways. By reducing absenteeism, employers can improve overall productivity.
  2. Ensuring legal compliance: There are statutory rules regarding sick pay and leave, and other forms of absences. By managing absences in accordance with applicable laws, and having managers who are knowledgeable and trained to deal with all such situations, can help employers to avoid legal complications.
  3. Spotting the signs early: When employees feel supported by their employer, they will feel as though they are able to approach their employer to have difficult conversations, raise issues earlier and hopefully return to work quicker after absences.  If an employer, or the management team within a business, can spot the early signs of health issues that may be affecting their staff, they can contribute to overall employee wellbeing, and hopefully alleviate long-term absences and health issues.

To effectively manage absence in the workplace, employers can consider implementing the following strategies:

1.    Develop an effective staff absence management policy

Creating clear and comprehensive policies is crucial. There may be a need for different policies, depending upon the type of leave you are looking to address, for example, with a Sickness Absence Policy, you would outline the following:

  • The procedure required for reporting absences;
  • What documentation may be required at the different stages of absence;
  • What an employee will be paid for such absence; and
  • Any consequences relating to unauthorised absences.

Well-defined policies ensure consistency and transparency in managing absences.

2.    Recording absences

Employers should establish a system for tracking and monitoring absences, maintaining accurate records of employee absences, analysing trends, and identifying potential issues or patterns.

Such data can help streamline processes and set trigger points for management to check in with the individual.  Employers should be aware that sickness absences should be recorded differently to absences connected with an employee who has a disability, or be off for pregnancy-related reasons.

3.    Encourage open communication with employees around absence

Promoting a culture of open communication, where employees feel comfortable discussing any issues they may be facing and any reasons relating to absence from work, is crucial when running a business.

Employers should encourage employees to speak openly, notify their managers promptly of any issues, or when they are unable to attend work and also ensure that all staff and management are aware of the necessary processes and procedures connected with doing so.

4.    Provide absence-related support for employees

Supporting employees during their time away from work can be instrumental in enhancing their wellbeing and aid in their return to work, not least to alleviate some of the stress or anxiety around their return.

This could include offering resources for health and wellness, providing access to employee assistance programs, and offering flexible working arrangements – such as a phased return, or allowing them to work from home, where possible and appropriate.

Offering support during absences will allow employees to feel valued, that they are still part of the team and not excluded, and also gives employers an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the employee’s wellbeing.

5.    Offer health and wellbeing programs

Implementing health and wellbeing programs can promote a healthier workforce and help prevent unnecessary absences.

These programs can include initiatives such as health screenings, wellness workshops, stress management programs, and access to counselling services.

By investing in employee wellbeing, employers create a positive work environment where staff feel valued and looked after.

6.    Conduct return-to-work interviews

When employees return from extended absences, conducting return-to-work interviews is highly beneficial, both for the employee and the employer.

These interviews provide an opportunity to discuss the reasons for the absence, understand any ongoing support the employee may require, and ensure a smooth transition back into the work environment. They can also help identify any underlying issues that may have contributed to the absence, find appropriate solutions and allow discussions about any adjustments that might be necessary, such as flexible working.

Managing employee absence in the workplace is vital for maintaining productivity in the workplace. By following these steps, employers can create a supportive work environment that addresses absences effectively and enhances overall workplace satisfaction and performance.

Sign up by emailing hrhub@primaslaw.co.uk and join our exclusive mailing list here for more HR advice, insights and information. If you need any support on how to introduce absence management strategies in your business, get in touch with our employment team today.

Share this