Tips for effective absence management

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They say absence makes the heart grow fonder but they clearly were not talking about running a business when they coined this term! Having a strong absence management policy in place is the best way to monitor absence levels at a company.

If you are still doing your absence management with paper files, perhaps it is time you look into a modern HR system. This will ensure the process is followed correctly and that appropriate records are kept (while automating many of the admin tasks that take up time!).

If your business is struggling with absence levels, here are a few tips:

Employee assistance programme (EAP)

Managing a team is a challenging role. No two team members are the same and there are moving parts to each team. When it comes to absence related matters it might be helpful to the team leaders if third party support is available.

Team members can be too embarrassed to discuss home or health issues in work but could be happy to talk to someone through an EAP. They may not want to discuss problems because they think it will affect their career or they'd rather not discuss it with someone they see everyday.

In London a company called Sanctus is doing great work in the area of providing third party support around mental well-being. This is a great example of how outside help can support your team.

Flexible working

There are many benefits to offering flexible working to the team and reducing absence is one of them. Being unwell could mean a number of different things. If someone is struggling but doesn’t feel completely unfit for work, being able to work from home is a big benefit. Not having to face the morning commute and being able to work on some of the less complicated tasks could be the difference between some progress instead of none at all.

Encouraging the team to take sick leave when they’re ill

Many of these hints and tips may suggest that we’re expecting the team to soldier on when they’ve caught something. On the contrary, recognising someone is ill and encouraging them to go home and rest will not only return them to work speedier than otherwise but will also prevent the rest of the team coming down with the same sickness!

This one isn’t a formal absence management policy but more of a cultural consideration for the team.

Management responsibilities

A good manager will know their team well enough to notice if someone isn’t their usual self. According to the Health and Safety Executive, in 2015/2016 stress accounted for 37% of all work related ill health cases. This is one of the areas that ought to be handled well by your team.

Managers are not expected to be medically trained but should still be able to identify early signs, including:

  • Errors that are out of character
  • Decreasing levels of performance
  • Lack of motivation

Managers should be on the lookout for behavioural change - if a colleague is more sensitive than usual, is appearing moody and argumentative, not communicating with colleagues in the way they normally would. There may also be physical indicators such as weight loss/gain, headaches and nervous speech. All signs someone needs support & may benefit in the long-term with a short break, free from work pressure.

Absence management is an ongoing task. For your team -support and understanding from managers certainly helps, as well as having the right policies and support services available. A clear absence management policy that is accessible to the team can also make this a more transparent subject at the company.



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