Employee absence is not uncommon for organisations as staff are absent from work due to ill-health, unexpected circumstances, maternity or paternity leave, bereavement or annual leave. Whilst these absences are understandable and important for both the individual and the company’s long term health it is important to have management processes in place, especially in the case of long-term absence so that your business is not affected.
What is absence management
Absence management is an approach that employer’s implement through policies, programmes and procedures to reduce absenteeism, maximise productivity and minimise disruption when absences do arise.
Absence management is important for the health of your employees and your business. It is important that your business has processes in place to support employees when they are absent from work and an absence management framework that supports employees during these periods is important. As mentioned above employees might require absence from work for a host of reasons and supporting employee wellbeing and maintaining a supportive working environment is important for their long-term success in your business on their return.
How to manage absences
Establishing an absence management policy early on in your business is one of the most important measures you can take to avoid difficulties down the line. To establish how policies should run you should first consider different types of absence:
- Short-term absence from minor illness, such as colds;
- Long-term illness from health conditions or health issues;
- Annual leave (either statutory or company policy);
- Maternity, paternity or adoption leave;
- Bereavement or compassionate leave;
- Flexible working;
- Educational leave, or;
- Unauthorised absences, such as lateness.
Your business will need different processes and procedures in place for each type of leave due to their differing longevity and impact on your business operations. When making your first hires you will want to have some company policies in place- particularly as these policies might make your company more attractive to prospective employees. Additionally, providing your employees with a suitable work-life balance is important to ensuring they work most effectively. You will want to determine how many days of holiday employees are entitled to each year, how much leave new parents are entitled to and what sickness policy you will operate. Included in these policies you should also include reporting requirements, for example to an employee’s line manager, so that the right part of the company is aware of staff absences.
As well as notification requirements your company might require certain information from employees to support their absences. For example, in order for employees to qualify for statutory sick pay (SSP) or sick leave you might require a fit note from their doctors or that they present a self-certificate. Making these processes clear at the beginning of your companies journey, rather than learning as you go, ensures that employees know exactly what to do when they have to miss work- taking the pressure of you and them.
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It is crucial that your organisation eliminates a culture of presenteeism. It is unhealthy for employees to work when they are unwell and damaging to your business. Employees that work even whilst ill are likely to slow their recovery, affecting their mental health, and are less likely to be present and efficient in the hours that they work, with increased mistakes and errors. This culture also leads to late diagnosis of illness as employees are less likely to seek medical help for their concerns during working hours by attending doctor appointments. It is therefore important that you also have policies in place for very short term sickness, such as a day or two, to ensure that your employees can recover quickly from short bursts of illness or infection. Giving employees their usual pay during these short breaks of sickness is one way your business can avoid generating a culture of presenteeism.
Once you have crafted these policies you will want to create systems which enable you to monitor absence rates. Human resource teams (HR teams) might want to consider using absence management software or HR software to track and monitor company absences.
You can also use a series of measures to monitor the absences that employees take, many of which are integrated into the HR systems mentioned above. For example, the Bradford factor can be used to measure short term sickness. However, with these scoring systems (and even the lost time and frequency measures), the CIPD warn that they can be discriminatory against those who possess conditions that do require time off from their typical working days for recovery. Ensuring that you avoid this discrimination, for example by implementing return to work interviews to explain absences or find areas where an employee can further be supported, is paramount and no hard and fast rule will suit all of your employees.
In the case of unauthorised absence you need to ensure that you also have disciplinary procedures in place that allow the individual to explain their employee absenteeism and, in cases where absence cannot be justified, have policies in place that outline the disciplinary action that can be taken. These policies should be contained within your employment agreements.
As demonstrated, it is important that your business has effective absence management systems in place from the get-go. You want to ensure that you have policies and processes drawn up for different scenarios prior to them occurring to ensure that they are robust and fair. Indeed, these policies should be provided to employees within their employment agreements or the staff handbooks they receive when joining your company. Legislate is a contract creation and management platform that allows you to create all of your employee related documents quickly and with the confidence that they have been lawyer-reviewed.
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The opinions on this page are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice on which you should rely.