What is an absence management policy?
An absence management policy helps you minimize the impact that unplanned absences have on your company through enforced programs.
The CIPD recently released its latest health and wellbeing at work report. In 2018, companies lost an average of 6.6 days per employee due to unplanned absences. In the public sector, the average is even higher, at 8.5 days per employee.
Every day lost to unplanned absence is going to cost you, and these costs are going to add up. It’s estimated that unplanned absences cost UK employers nearly £30 billion a year.
Unplanned absences can result in more problems than you might initially expect.
A single lost day can have a potentially devastating snowball effect. You could miss a shipment or a deadline. This could lead to a strained relationship with your client, or you could even lose their business completely. So you might ask the rest of the team to take on more work to make up for the shortfall. This could result at no end of stress and anxiety – not to mention resentment.
What does an absence management policy look like?
At the root of your policy should be a commitment to promoting a culture of wellbeing.
You need to champion a good work/life balance. Yes, you want your employees to work hard, but only when they’re on the clock. You should make it clear that work needs to stop the second the clock hits five – or whenever you finish. Of course, certain projects might require longer hours, but this should be the exception, and it should be rewarded in kind with TOIL or overtime pay.
Don’t make your employees feel like you expect them to put in extra hours, and never make them feel guilty for wanting to leave on time. Never call or email your employees out of work hours, and make it clear that you don’t expect anyone to check their emails outside of work hours.
Go for an open-door policy. People should feel like they can talk to you, openly and confidentially, if there’s ever anything on their minds. They might be worried about their workload, or they might be preoccupied with a situation at home. If they can talk to you, you might be able to help before their issues become truly problematic.
All of these measures will make your employees feel valued and listened to. They’ll feel like they have control over their work and their lives, which can help to combat on-the-job stress.
But when it comes to wellbeing in the workplace, this is just the tip of the iceberg. A comprehensive employee wellbeing policy might involve much more, including measures designed to help your employees eat healthily and stay active. For some great ideas about how this might work, take a look at how some of the world’s most successful companies manage workplace wellbeing.
What you need to include in your absence policy
Processes & workflow
Employees need to know what the process is for requesting leave, and for reporting an unplanned absence. You also need to make it clear who’s responsible for recording unplanned absences, and who’s responsible for monitoring and reporting on absence stats. You need to set Bradford Factor trigger points for each employee, and if they’re met, you need a process for intervening.
Absences monitoring and reporting
The more you know about the reasons behind unplanned absences, the more you can reduce the likelihood of them happening in the future. You need to keep on top of your absence data. This can help you to spot patterns – such as the months when employees are most likely to call in sick – which could help you to identify strategies for making sick days less likely.
Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP)
Mental ill-health appears to be a growing problem for UK employers. As part of your open-door policy, you need to ensure you have people on hand who are trained to help employees with matters that you might not be qualified to handle yourself. These can include stress, depression, anxiety, financial problems, and both internal and external relationships. Investing in Employee Assistance Programmes will prove to your employees that you care about their needs, and it may help prevent many instances of unplanned absence.
Return to work interviews
Make it clear that you’ll conduct return to work interviews whenever any employee returns from a period of unplanned absence. But this isn’t an interrogation. You’re not testing their loyalty and looking for holes in their story. You’re offering empathy, and looking for ways that you can help. If you can uncover a root cause of absence, perhaps whatever issues they may be facing can be handled before they result in more missed work.
Reinforce your absence policy with robust absence technology
Thousands of companies across the world depend on our advanced absence management system. By empowering you to take control of your absenteeism, we could save you £289 per employee per year.
With Edays absence tracking, almost everything we’ve talked about in this guide is streamlined, simplified, and automated.
We make it easy for employees to keep on top of their entitlement, book leave, and report unplanned leave. We make it easy for you to track workloads, set trigger points, and get the clearest possible overview of your absence data.
Katrina is edays' own People Director with significant UK and international experience in delivering people strategy and value-adding HR solutions across a range of organisations and sectors (including Arriva, Boots, Rolls Royce, the utility and charity sectors). Katrina has over 20 years of experience in Human Resources and is CIPD qualified.