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Sickness absence management can be very time consuming for managers and high levels of sickness absence can have knock on effects within an organisation such as extra expense of covering the absence and low morale in the employees who feel they are always left to pick up the slack.
There are two types of sickness absence, short-term and long-term absence. Short-term absence would be classified as those occasions when people are absent for the odd day or so maybe with a sickness bug or cold symptoms. However long-term sickness absence can be much more chronic. This may entail employees being absent due to long term health conditions such as mental health issues, physical health issues such as back pain or illnesses such as cancer.
Process for managing sickness absence
- Have a sickness absence policy in place which outlines how the organisation manages sickness absence, what pay employees receive when they are off sick and what they must do in order to receive payment, how employees must report their sickness and absence and what employees can expect on their return to work. If they are on long-term sickness absence, what they can expect from the organisation in terms of requests to attend occupational health or to write to their doctor for further information.
- The key to managing sickness absence is to ensure you are conducting return to work meetings with all your employees. It is imperative they are conducted with all employees to ensure you aren’t seen as favouring certain employees or discriminating against employees.
- Track and monitor employees sickness, the number of days and occasions they have had and the reasons they are providing for their absence. This has two purposes. You may start to see a pattern in an employee’s sickness absence e.g. their sickness may always fall on a Monday. You can highlight this to the employee and explore the reason for this. Tracking and monitoring is always important for payroll purposes and ensuring you know how much sick pay or SSP they have remaining.
- When monitoring an employees sickness absence, it is important to be aware you can’t count any absence related to a protected characteristic such as disability related absence towards their levels of absence. If you have concerns about an employees sickness absence levels please contact the HR team on 0117 970 2755.
- Your disciplinary policy may hold high levels of sickness absence as a reason to enter into the formal process. If you find yourself in this situation and would like to discuss matters further please contact the HR team.
Proactive sickness absence management
There are a number of things that managers can do in order to proactively reduce sickness absence levels:
- Have an open door policy- having regular catch ups with employees can help you have an insight into how they are personally. Are they struggling with work? Do they have some personal issues that are having an impact on their performance at work? Are there issues at work that are causing worry and stress? Are they managing their workload or are they struggling? If you have regular contact with your employees you may be able to mitigate issues that may cause them to go off with issues such as stress.
- Encourage your employees to use their annual leave. It is important that everyone takes time out of work and recharge. Being overworked and exhausted can lead to many health issues such as stress and anxiety as well as many or physical complaints.
- As discussed above, ensure you always conduct return to work meetings with your employees when they have been off sick. You could pick up on issues as to why they are taking time of sick. They may be unhappy at work, they may be struggling in their role or there may be issues at home that is causing them to take time off for example they may have caring responsibilities for a sick parent and they are struggling to cope.
Why manage sickness absence?
High levels of sickness absence can have extremely negative impacts on an organisation. There can be a loss of productivity, it can create trust issues if an employee has regular short-term absence, and can cost an organisation a lot financially. So why should we manage people’s sickness absence:
- By managing sickness absence it can actually reduce levels of sickness absence. Return to works can be so effective at reducing sickness absence. Employees may think twice about ‘pulling a sickie’ if they know they will be sitting down with their manager to discuss why they were off sick. Also if employees are aware that you do track and review absence levels and that there is the possibility of disciplinary action for high levels of sickness absence, they may feel less inclined to take time off sick if they aren’t genuinely ill.
- Managing sickness absence also ensures as an employer you are taking care of employee’s wellbeing. As an employer you are obliged under the Health and Safety Act, to ensure that an employee’s health is cared for whilst at the work place.
Managing sickness and absence can be very time consuming for managers, however if you take some proactive steps you could reduce your time spent reacting to an employees continued absence. If you are looking for some support on the issues raised in this post, please contact the HR team at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0117 970 2755. If you have an employee who you feel may benefit from occupational health, Avon LMC provides Practices access to occupational health services. For more information on this you can contact Pauline at email@example.com or call her on the 0117 970 2755.