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Absence Tracking 101: Your Complete Guide

4 December 2023 7 min read

absence tracking in the workplace

HR professionals know that one of the challenges in the workplace is absence & leave tracking and management. However, there are a few ways that absence and leave can be more effectively managed with a strong absence management policy and good practices. We have highlighted some of the things to consider when it comes to absence tracking below. 

Dealing with circumstances like sickness leave and absenteeism – amongst other types of absences in the workplace – are a daily occurrence for small and large companies, with an estimated 149.3 million working days lost because of sickness or injury in the UK in 2021. 

Employee takes absence from work

Absence tracking tips for every organisation

1. Have a robust absence management policy in place 

The first step to managing absence in the workplace is having a clear absence management policy in place. Our article ‘How to create a clear absence management policy‘ gives you everything you need to know. 

Consider aspects such as how and to whom employees should notify their sickness, outline what the statutory process is for the company obtaining a doctor’s fit note, and what the procedure will be for ensuring the employee can safely and easily return to work following time away. 

When it comes to booking holiday or other types of leave, consider how much notice the employee should give and who has the authority to approve leave requests. Also consider if there are any minimum resourcing needs or criteria. Of course, ensuring that all of this is communicated clearly to employees within your organisation, and that people managers know the process, is key. 

2. Set trigger points to identify patterns 

To monitor and track absence in order to better manage it in the business, or to reduce high absence, it is important to recognise some of the early warning signs and patterns if an employee is taking a lot of time off. 

It is important to record all absences by individual – and you can compare this against colleagues, company level or against industry sector or industry data and norms. Full and accurate records allow you to manage in a meaningful way. 

You can also look at things like which days of the week the employee is frequently absent. If it is normally a Monday for example, there may be a reason behind this. They may be caring for a relative at the weekends, and feel too exhausted to come into work on Monday morning. A quiet, discreet conversation with the employee may encourage them to confide in you, and steps can be taken to support the employee, such as implementing a different working arrangement, to help them manage both work and home life. 

Perhaps an employee always take sickness leave around the beginning or end of the month, so it may be that monthly reports or end of month deadlines on top of their day-to-day workload are causing them too much stress. Again, noticing this possible pattern and gently asking the employee about it, may reveal how they are feeling so that steps can be taken to help – alleviating the employee’s stress and helping to reduce the number of times they are absent from work. 

3. Consider professional development for better communication 

As with the above scenario, sometimes honest and personal conversations may be needed with members of staff to understand how they are feeling, or if they are dealing with situations that are causing them to be absent from work more frequently. 

Absence tracking involves having open conversations with employees

It’s therefore important for business leaders, HR professionals and people managers to be equipped to have these conversations – that may mean additional training is required so that your teams have the necessary skills to support employees. This can include how to listen effectively and how to approach difficult topics such as bereavement, long-term sickness, depression or other types of mental illness.   

4. Encourage a positive work culture

In order to ensure that employees remain happy and confident in their roles, it’s important to maintain a healthy work culture and encourage a positive work life balance. The vast majority of companies already implement various employee benefits from birthday annual leave and a training budget, to discounted gym memberships and health insurance, but is there something else you could consider rolling out to give employees a wellbeing boost? 

A positive workplace culture with robust absence tracking processes in place

Performing an anonymous company-wide survey to capture people’s opinions on what they feel is working well for them in their role and what could be improved. Responses will provide you with insight into what people value in their place of work and its culture, which you can use to influence future decisions – plus, the survey itself will show employees that you’re open to new ideas and are taking their feedback onboard. 

5. Track long-term absences 

It is possible for an employee to experience long-term sickness which results in them needing to take prolonged time off work. They may develop a disability as a result of the illness, which may mean they are unable to perform their work in the same way, or same locations, as they were previously able to. 

If you have an employee who is off for prolonged periods, always seek medical guidance on the best way to return to work. Phased returned is often the recommended route, or other adjustments made to the employee’s role, working hours or location. Open communication is crucial here, so that both parties are aware of the situation, timelines for a potential return to work, and how this can be managed. 

HR professionals or the employee’s manager, depending on the circumstances, may want to book in regular welfare calls with the employee to check in on them. As the employee recovers, discussions can be had about slowly phasing the employee back into work. You may want to invite them to work one or two days per week at first, and increase this as time goes on. Consideration must also be given to whether the employee can travel to the office, and/or whether they have suitable space and equipment to work from home.  

6. Be flexible 

Absence due to illness is a regular occurrence in any workplace. On top of that, people need dentist and doctors appointments, they may need to make an emergency trip to the vet, or care for a loved one at short notice, or their car breaks down causing them to be late. 

Understanding that personal life will sometimes get in the way of work is a key factor in managing absence and leave. Sometimes it can’t be helped, and dealing with genuine absences in a supportive way will help the employee to feel secure in their role and able to seamlessly return to work without unnecessary disruption. 

There are many statutory and company policies to support businesses and employees in dealing with non-attendance from work, for example time off for dependents. Businesses can make this known to employees by having a comprehensive induction, employee handbook and having great conversations – getting to know their people.  

Companies may want to consider investing in an absence tracking system, that centralises all absence information in one place – so you know who is off sick, who is on holiday, who is taking time off in lieu (TOIL) and so on. Not only can absences be tracked, but you can also book and approve leave, set reminders to employees to take annual leave, and set alerts to enable you to identify potential issues with an employee taking excessive absences. 

With edays, you can manage, analyse and report on other information too, such as working locations, overtime, time submission and absence reporting – providing unparalleled visibility of absence and leave within your organisation. Click here to book a personalised demo. 

Georgina at edays
December 4, 2023

Georgina Mackintosh is an accomplished copywriter and marketing professional with a background that spans several industries. Her writing focuses on HR topics such as employee wellbeing, engagement and experience - as well as absence management best practice, how-to guides and news from the HR sector.