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Iceni Magazine | October 22, 2018

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5 Ways to Manage Absence Effectively

5 Ways to Manage Absence Effectively

In late 2015, a large survey found that the average worker was absent from work due to sickness for 6.5 days a year.

Last year, that number had dropped to 4.3 days per worker – the lowest record since the series began in 1993. While the number of absences due to sick days is reducing, some level of sickness is unavoidable. So how should your business manage absence effectively? Here are some ideas.

  1. Use HR software to monitor sickness absence

Your HR software is useful for a multitude of tasks – from capturing employee performance reviews to administering payroll and other functions, it’s likely to be the bedrock of your business from an administrative perspective. But, it’s also particularly useful for extracting data relating to health and sickness. Use your HR software to get an overview of absence levels across the business, and see if you can identify reasons behind the teams or individuals logging the most amount of sickness. 

  1. Check the Bradford Factor score

As this helpful article explains, the Bradford Factor score is a way for HR departments to monitor absence rates. You’ll need figures such as the episodes of absence, and the total days of absence within a period to work out a Bradford Factor Score. If a calculation generates a Bradford Factor score of 45, that might be sufficient for a manager to show concern for an employee. A score of 100 might warrant more serious action, and a score of 900 may well warrant dismissal. However, it’s important to remember that this score won’t take certain things into account, such as staff who suffer with particular conditions and therefore are expected to have higher than usual short-term absence. So, take it with a pinch of salt and remember to exercise caution when using this method of managing absence. 

  1. Create an honest and flexible atmosphere

While many staff who take time off sick are genuinely unwell, there are always one or two who use their sick days for other reasons. However, it may not be for a day of relaxation as you might imagine, but because they’re struggling to balance responsibilities outside of work, such as caring for both young children and elderly parents at the same time. So, rather than having your employees feeling forced to call in sick when they’re actually caring for relatives, consider operating a flexible working arrangement. Allowing your staff to work from home where possible on days where they need to be present for family members, or permitting them to make up hours as it best suits them if they need to provide a hands-on level of care, might bring your sickness rate down significantly, and improve morale and retention too. 

  1. Don’t make assumptions

According to the CIPD, most sickness absence is genuine. Therefore, if your business has a policy of conducting return to work interviews – however informal – it’s important that the tone be supportive rather than suspicious. If you have particular concerns about an employee, or have reason to believe they weren’t actually sick, talk to them away from the rest of the team and follow the disciplinary procedures your company has in place. Just bear in mind that you may not be aware of an underlying condition or a problem that has recently arisen. 

  1. Be more proactive

Sickness is an inevitable part of office life, and if you’re currently operating an open-plan office, you’ll find that sickness spreads quicker than it otherwise might. So, be proactive. Are your employees taking their annual holiday allowance and actually getting some time to rest? Are you offering healthy food initiatives? Doing what you can to stave off sickness is a good way to manage absence in the long term.

Finally, remember that aiming for 100% attendance isn’t actually realistic, and fostering a culture whereby sickness is treated with cynicism will mean that people come into work when they shouldn’t really be there. This could result in sickness spreading, or an individual’s illness being exacerbated so that they end up taking a longer period of absence. So, tread carefully when you’re handling it.



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