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Absence Management

What is Absence Management?

Absence Management is primarily a program to control the absences due to urgency, illness, or injury with administering uninformed, unplanned or excessive absenteeism. Absence management is actually a very crucial factor relevant to the productivity of the workforce.

Why is it important?

It is important that managers introduce an efficient and effective Absence Management System to drive down absenteeism, and prevent it as much as possible. Absence can be managed in various ways, and the work culture of your organization will have a significant impact on this.

What are the methods of Absence Management?

Organizations need to keep in touch with the absent employees in a sensitive way and have a formal return-to-work strategy for those returning after a prolonged absence. Awareness of potential disability discrimination issues is also crucial, and organizations should have a disability leave policy that treats absence linked to someone’s disability as distinct from sickness absence.

The role of the line manager is important in managing long-term absence, but other interventions are also important. These include:

  1. Return-to-work interviews that are supportive and discussing ongoing adjustments where needed.
  2. Occupational health involvement and proactive measures to support staff health and well-being.
  3. A supportive case management approach, for example involving HR, occupational health services, and the individual’s line manager.
  4. Risk assessment to help return to work after a long-term absence.
  5. Changes to working patterns or environments, including flexible working.
  6. Return-to-work interviews.

There are five specific elements in the recovery and return-to-work process:

  1. Keeping in contact with unwell employees, in a sensitive manner, to help prevent them from feeling isolated.
  2. Planning and implementing workplace adjustments when and where necessary, in collaboration with the individual.
  3. Accessing professional advice and treatment.
  4. Planning and coordinating a return-to-work plan.
  5. Regular evaluation with the employee about how they are adjusting after being back at work.

What is Absence Management policy?

The organizations should have a clear policy that supports their business objectives and culture and explain the rights and obligations of employees when absent due to sickness. The law requires employers to provide employees with information on any terms and conditions relating to incapacity for work due to sickness or injury, including any provision related to sick pay.

The policy should:

  1. Provide details on contractual sick pay terms and their relationship with statutory sick pay.
  2. Explain when and who should employees notify if they are not able to attend work.
  3. Include when (after how many days) employees need to fill in the self-certificate form.
  4. Contain details of when do employees need to provide the fit note from their doctor.
  5. Explain how any review or trigger point system used by the employer works.
  6. Say that the organization reserves the right to require employees to attend an examination by a company doctor or occupational health professional and (with the individual's consent) to request a report from the employee’s doctor
  7. Include provisions for return-to-work interviews
  8. Explain that adjustments may be appropriate to assist the employee in returning to work as soon as it is practicable.
  9. Give guidance on absence through major or adverse events (for example, snow, pandemics or popular sporting events such as the Olympic Games or the World Cup).

What is the Absence Management report?

According to a survey, employee absence costs on average of £835 per year per employee in the public sector, so monitoring it regularly in your organization is essential to lessen costs, maximize the productivity of your employees and improve the employee experience, resulting in higher achievements. But, where do you start?

The key things to monitor are:

The type of absence that is occurring with that particular employee – Is there a pattern emerging? Do the timings of absence raise any cause for concern? Is there anything you can do to help reduce this type of absence?

The type of absence that is occurring across a department – Is there a pattern that raises concerns for a particular team or line manager? Do you need to alter working patterns or reduce the workload to minimize stress for example? Are there any adjustments needed in the management style?

The type of absence that is occurring across your organization as a whole. Do you have a higher number of people absent from a specific type of illness? Could you, for example, hold flu clinics or does cleanliness need to be improved to reduce spreading germs? Do you have a high proportion of staff off with stress and if so what could you do to reduce this?

Long-term v short-term absence – It would be helpful to understand what kind of absence needs your attention. Is it an issue with short-term illnesses or is it a case of trying to better support and manage those off long-term?

Time periods – Do you have an issue with absence in a particular time-frame. This could be a specific day, time of year or perhaps related to your type of work, for example at the point of approaching the end of the year.

Benchmarking – Can you compare your absence against benchmarks across your industry. Do you know if it is an issue in your organization or more standard? CIPD has published an absence survey with average statistics by industry which you can access here.

Cost – Do you know how much absence is actually costing your organization, by the employee, by the department, and across the organization? Before you take action, you should have a starting point to work from and then periodically review this to see what actions can be taken to reduce this amount. Do you know how much Occupational Sick Pay, Statutory Sick Pay or Supply Cover cost you? On top of this are indirect costs, such as administration time and lower productivity.

Frequency – How often is a member of staff absent? If you are going to follow a formal process you need to know how often they are absent and why quickly and easily. Likewise planning your budget to cover absentees is impossible if you don’t know how many days you are likely to need covering on average.

Triggers – If you have an absence policy in place with trigger conditions regarding absence you need to be able to monitor these clearly and quickly. Taking quick and correct action during and following an absence is important in supporting the colleague back to work and reducing your costs. Monitoring triggers over a length of time can show when action needs to be taken in line with your absence policy and support your absence process. Triggers can be set around cumulative days absent in a set period, a number of occasions of absence in a set period or Bradford Factor calculation.

How can good reporting help?

Employee – Good reporting can help the employee to be supported correctly through the absence process.

Line Manager/Department Manager – Tracking absence and analyzing reports can help line managers to support staff and manage the absence process correctly. They can identify trends and have more meaningful discussions with employees.

Headteacher/Managing Director – Reporting can help a Headteacher or Managing Director to assess the impact of absence across the organization and to report to senior leaders, trustees or Governors.

Multi-Academy Trusts/ Multi-Site organizations – Viewing reports across schools or sites can highlight any issues that need addressing within the group or with specific managers.

How to take advantage of an automated report system?

You can use software to automate the reporting procedure and create a report. A report can include:

  1. Annual Comparison – This compares absences over a set number of academic years
  2. Absence Type – This shows you the types of absences further broken down by illness categories
  3. Termly Comparison – Similar to the annual comparison but compared over a preset number of terms
  4. Per Department – Teachers / Support / Leadership etc.
  5. Per Line Manager – just a view per line manager
  6. All Absences – the All Absences Report is used mainly to extract absences for payroll purposes over a specified period
  7. Attendance Percentage Report – attendance by employees showing 100% as well as percentage absent.
  8. And finally, the Cost of Absence Report - This report uses your staff salary and absence data. The report will work out how much absence is costing you by individual absence, by employee summary, by absence type summary, and by department summary. This is very useful for senior leadership teams and governing bodies.

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