How to effectively manage sickness absence

Expert HR advice by Blue Tree HR Solutions

As a freelance HR consultant, I am often asked to give expert HR advice regarding sickness absence and how best to manage this, especially at this time of year. Sickness absence is a serious issue for many companies, in fact, data from the Office of National Statistics show that nearly 150 million days were lost to either sickness or injury in the UK throughout 2021, equating to 4.6 days per person! And whilst covid helped to make these the highest figures ever recorded, it is still businesses that must bear the brunt of the lost hours. The bottom line is, both short and long-term staff absences hit businesses hard.

The cost of regular absence

There are obvious direct costs to sickness absence, such as lost man hours, statutory or occupational sick pay, and paying another person unexpected overtime to cover. But what of the more indirect effects, such as lowered morale among the workforce due to increased workloads? And when workers are having to cover fellow employees’ work there is an increased chance of mistakes being made, as others are becoming overworked. There is also the chance of lower productivity in the office, as constantly absent employees can lead to delayed projects and deadlines being missed, leading to lower motivation from the rest of the team.

Expert HR advice by Blue Tree HR Solutions

The top reasons for sickness absence

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Health and Wellbeing report published in 2020 showed that both stress and mental ill-health are two of the main causes of long-term absence. The most common reasons for short-term absence are minor illnesses such as colds, flu, stomach bugs, headaches and migraines. The real issues begin when there is suspicion that an employee may not actually be sick at all, but is using sickness as an excuse for being absent from work. This is where managing sickness absence can get tricky and where it pays to have expert HR advice from an experienced team like Blue Tree HR!

So now that we know the main reasons for absence, and how this can affect the business, how can we effectively manage sickness absence? Here is my expert HR advice on how to effectively manage sickness absence in your business.

Use HR software to track all absences

The first piece of expert HR advice I would suggest to any business wanting to effectively manage sickness absence is to invest in HR software that will track all employee absences, whether it be due to sickness, annual holiday or any other reason. I would strongly advise using Breathe HR, which allows you to manage holiday requests, manage absences, expense tracking, document storing, automated reporting and so much more. If your business has less than 10 employees it is just £13 a month, or just £26 a month for up to 20 employees! This really is an amazing piece of HR software, and you can get started right away by following this link

Expert HR advice by Blue Tree HR Solutions

Ensure you have set policies and procedures for absence in place

It is essential that any business has clear policies and procedures in place documenting the exact steps and repercussions for continued absence. By following our expert HR advice we would suggest these should clearly be made aware to all employees, and be available for review by an employee at any time. By having such policies and procedures in place you ensure that there can be no legal fallout should, in the worst-case scenario, you have to let someone go over continued absence.

Reviewing the evidence and identifying the issue

Once you have the correct HR software in place you can review all absences and identify any trends, such as whether there is a particular individual who is always off sick on Mondays, or is there someone who always seems to be missing when there is an important deadline due? Perhaps an employee is regularly off with no real explanation or a series of different excuses? If you start to see a pattern then our expert HR advice would be that it is time to have a formal discussion with the employee. Likewise, it may be that you have evidence that the employee was not sick when they were supposed to be but was actually somewhere else having fun. Should this occur then the employee needs to be led through your official disciplinary procedures.

Holding return-to-work interviews are an excellent way to identify potential issues early on whilst ensuring that employees are aware that their sickness absence is being monitored and will be discussed with them.

For more expert HR advice contact the team

Unfortunately, at this time of year, there is always an increase in sickness absence. But by following our expert HR advice outlined above you will be better placed to decide whether the absence is genuine or may need investigating. We would love to discuss this in more detail, so for further expert HR advice, please contact our team.

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