Employee absence tracking is an added task for people managers and HR teams, but doing it efficiently and accurately helps to ensure the stability and wellbeing of your staff. But what happens if you don’t track the reason for an absence from work? How do you know if it’s due to sickness, injury, a personal emergency or something else?
Recent research found that a fifth of businesses do not track sickness absences at all – a worrying statistic that shows the lack of visibility some organisations have over their teams. It’s true that all employees need to take time off work now and then – especially if they’re unwell.
Taking the time to rest and recover will do more for productivity than trying to work through it, so employees must be able to feel as though they can take time away.
As for organisations, it’s vital that all instances of absences are logged, so that employees’ recovery can be supported and any issues are brought to light before they develop into more serious circumstances. Absence is not always down to illness, however. There are different types of absence, and in this blog we’re focusing on some of the other reasons employees might need to take unplanned absence from work.
Last minute appointments
Employees can and should give advanced notice of any medical or other personal appointments and events they have (such as solicitor appointments or funerals), but sometimes these things can occur on a last-minute basis. For example, an employee might have been on a waiting list for months for a hospital appointment, and they have little choice but to take the first one offered to them.
In these cases, an employee might need to take an unplanned absence, and it’s up to the employer how flexible they are willing to be in these situations. Generally, the more flexible you are able to be, the better. Employees will appreciate the leniency you show and it will build a level of trust – after all, appointments of this nature are likely to be an infrequent occurrence.
Employees with children may need to take more unplanned absences from time to time, than those without children. As above, they might also need to juggle around last-minute appointments for their children, and not just for themselves.
If their child is ill, they may need to rush off to pick them up from school, and take care of them on the following couple of days if needed. While not ideal for everyone involved, these things happen, and showing understanding in these situations will help to minimise any additional parental stress.
Other caring responsibilities
Employees might be carers for other relatives in their family – such as elderly grandparents or parents. If a family member is ill, employees have the right to take time off work to look after them – but again, this can sometimes happen at short notice. A parent might have fallen down the stairs or suddenly become very ill, and so an employee might need to take absence from work until the situation stabilises.
Accidents, personal and home emergencies
Accidents happen! It could be anything from a road traffic accident to slipping in the shower. An employee might not even be involved in a traffic accident, but rather witness one – potentially leaving them in some distress. Showing compassion and understanding in moments like this will serve employers much more than scrutinising what happened and questioning why an employee was late or absent.
There could also be many reasons as to why an employees has to take some time off due to a home emergency – the boiler breaks down, there’s a burst pipe, or a broken window. Again, these situations call for flexibility and understanding as an employee may be later than usual arriving for work, or need to leave early. A discussion between the employee and their manager can be had at an appropriate time to determine if and when an employee is able to catch up on any lost working hours.
Poor mental health is a legitimate reason for absence from work, just like a cold or the flu. A key difference is that the likelihood of a mental health absence recurring within 12 months is 24.4%, so organisations should prioritise employee wellbeing to not only help reduce absence rates, but nurture a happier, healthier workforce.
Having honest, open conversations are vital to offer the right support to employees who may be suffering with their mental health, so ensuring people managers feel empowered to do so is also key.
Amongst the least obvious causes of absence from work involve any workplace issues an employee experiences. This could be in the form of workplace bullying, harassment, colleague disputes, managerial issues, workload stress or burnout.
Without proper absence management, and an understanding of why your employees are taking absence, potentially serious and detrimental issues like these could be missed. Getting the bottom of all instances of absences and knowing the reason why they have occurred will provide people managers and HR teams with the insight they need to be able to intervene where needed, and provide the right support.
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