The effects of sickness absence
In a small business it’s critical that your employees turn up to work – absent employees will affect your business productivity and put extra pressure on the rest of your staff. “With sickness absence costing employers around £600 per employee every year, it can have a real impact on your business,” says David Prosser, Sickness Absence Management expert at AXA PPP healthcare.
Managing absence effectively
It would be a good idea to have a clear and up-to-date absence policy in place, and check that it’s followed consistently. You should also record and monitor any absence. “A surprising number of organisations do not have accurate and reliable data on their workforce’s sickness absence,” says David. “Make it a priority to identify sickness absence hotspots and work out the associated costs.”
Making plans before the Olympics
Sickness absence often increases when large sporting events are shown on TV during working hours. “With the Olympic Games this summer, it’s important that you prepare for increased staff absence,” warns David. “For example, you may find that employees with only a minor illness are more likely to stay at home to watch the coverage. And those who have been refused annual leave may be tempted to take an unauthorised day off. Equally it can be a welcome boost to staff morale if an employer takes a positive and proactive approach to interest in the Olympics by allowing flexible working around key events provided time is made up. And don’t forget that some staff may have no interest in watching, so take care that they do not feel taken advantage of.”
Managing sickness absence
Sickness absence can have a big impact on your bottom line: absent employees put extra pressure on the rest of your staff and their ability to deliver great customer service to your valued clients. As sickness absence often increases during large sporting events, it’s important that you have plans in place ahead of the 2012 Olympics this summer.
Guarding against unauthorised leave
Unauthorised leave can cause problems, especially if you’re already operating with fewer staff. To help guard against this, you should have an absence policy that is well publicised and remind your staff of the consequences of taking unauthorised leave.
Clarify when absence will be considered unauthorised – for example, when normal reporting procedures aren’t followed or when the reason for the absence isn’t genuine. David agrees that it can be tricky to judge whether the employee is telling the truth. “This is when return-to-work interviews are so important,” he explains. “When the employee is back at work, arrange for a catch-up to establish the reason for their absence. If it turns out that the employee wasn’t genuinely sick, you may need to take disciplinary action.”
“During the Olympic Games, employees with only a minor illness are more likely to stay at home to watch the coverage”
Sickness absence top tips
Effective sickness management can make a big difference to your business productivity and performance.
• Have an up to date absence policy that explains clearly when and how managers should take action. Communicate your policy to all staff, and make sure it’s followed consistently.
• Recording sickness absence will enable you to identify patterns and causes, plan cover for absent staff and measure your organisation’s performance.
• Keep in contact with absent employees, as this it makes employees feel valued and ‘in the know’. This is key when helping employees return to work. But make sure you don’t put too much pressure on them – they should only return when they’re feeling better.
• Check whether there are any adjustments you can make to the employee’s tasks, hours, or workspace to make it easier for them to return to work. This is another time when Employee Assistance Programmes can be of great help.
• Carry out a return-to-work interview to welcome the employee back to work, make sure their absence record is correct and give them the opportunity to raise any concerns.