Eight tips for managing high levels of absence

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Are you struggling with an employee who is taking a significant amount of time out of the business? If so, here are eight things you can start doing immediately to rectify the situation
  1. Ensure good record keeping. When logging absence, record as much information as possible, including the date and time they reported the absence, the specific reason they gave you for the absence, whether they are going to see the GP and when they think they will be returning to work. If you are using an electronic system that does not allow you to state detailed information, then make a note of the reason for absence elsewhere. The reason for absence will help you ascertain if there is an underlying medical condition that needs further discussion/investigation.
  2. Ensure that the Company Sickness Absence Policy clearly defines ‘trigger points’ for discussion and management action. This will make it easier for your managers to be able to have meetings with their staff. When employees are moving towards the trigger points, it is good practice for managers to highlight this to the employee so that they are also aware.
  3. Train all your managers so that there is consistency across the business, otherwise the company could end up with a manager being accused of bullying if he/she is the only one in the company that actively manages absences.
  4. Carry out Return to Work Interviews for any absences that are half a day or more as these will assist to ensure that employees are aware that their absence is noted. It gives managers the opportunity to discuss if there are any other health issues. It also allows managers to create a positive environment. Return to Work interviews deter casual absences. Don’t be afraid to let the employee know that absences put pressure on their colleagues as they have to cover their work. Remind them what it feels like when their colleagues are absent.
  5. When you need to take action: review the absence data to determine:-
    1. The number of instances they are absent
    2. The days of the week they are absent
    3. The reasons for absence
    4. Ascertain if there are any patterns of absence i.e Mondays/Fridays or at the end of the month or all for digestive/stomach issues.
  6. Arrange to sit down with the employee and put the facts to them for comments. Take into account any new information they share with you. Be mindful of anything that may be maternity related or considered as a disability and consider referring to Occupational Health for further advice if necessary. If absences are related to anything other than the employees’ health issue example, financial or relationship issues, access to children then consider supporting the employee by directing them to counselling services or providing employees with access to an Employee Assistance Programme where they can get further help.
  7. Set a period of time that you will monitor their absence record and let them know what would happen if there is no improvement in their attendance – capability or disciplinary.
  8. Finally, confirm the details in writing to them.


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