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February 2019
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Managing sickness absence positively


By: Claire Moore Date: 4 February 2019
Category: HR

Over recent years it has been noticed that the first Monday in February sees higher numbers of workers calling in sick than any other day of the year, thus earning it the title “national sickie day”. Statistics estimate a staggering 350,000 absences on this day alone, costing the UK economy something in the region of £35 million.

As an employer there are steps you can take to help mitigate this, and a robust sickness absence policy can help. Some of the following strategies may be of use to you:

Notification process
Your sickness absence policy should set out both the expected standards of attendance and the requirements for reporting in. You should follow up with employees if they don’t follow the process. A simple way to deter employees from taking time off when they are not actually ill is to require that they speak to a manager or member of the HR team instead of sending a text message or email.

Certification
When an employee returns from a period of absence they will need to either complete a self-certification form (for absences shorter than seven days) or provide a fit note. You should check the information provided and identify if the employee requires any support, or reasonable adjustments. It is also important to check the details provided to ensure they correlate with the original absence report. Any discrepancies can be addressed in the return to work interview.

Return to work interviews
Following any period of absence it is useful to conduct a return to work interview. These are designed to be a supportive environment that allows your employee to request support or adjustments as above. Managers in your business should be trained to handle these types of conversations, and the interview should not be treated as a tick box exercise.

Keep records
You should be keeping records of absence and checking for patterns – does time off always fall on a Monday for instance? If you feel that absence rates are high, or there are concerning patterns these should be addressed with the employee to begin with. There may be other factors affecting this which can be addressed.

Occupational health
Making use of occupational health services can help you make reasonable adjustments to help your employees successfully return to work. You might see a significant reduction in absence durations following the advice provided.

Employee wellbeing
Promoting employee wellbeing can improve the health of your workforce and in return reduce absence levels. This could see you promoting healthy living to staff through a variety of initiatives, for example you could look to provide opportunities for staff to get active, or negotiate a discounted membership with your local gym. Monitoring employee workload and promoting a good work/life balance can increase employee engagement and productivity whilst reducing stress-related absences.

Lovewell Blake’s HR team can provide you with a free HR healthcheck, or discuss these policies with you – please contact us for further information.
 
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