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Managing sickness absence has been turned on its head

4 June 2020 3 min read

managing sickness absence

Until recently, the emphasis on managing employee sickness absence for the majority of companies was still relatively ‘hands-off’. This was driven by a respectful employee/employer relationship; after all, you need to give unwell employees time to recover without too many intrusions on their time or bandwidth – not to mention the data privacy concerns over asking someone for too much detail as to ‘why they’re ill’.

Up to just a few months ago, for short-term absences, nothing more than a quick email exchange would have been needed. In the longer term, regular check-ins and a proper return to work process were definitely part of most companies’ absence strategy, but even then, the reasons behind the sickness itself were left relatively unexplored.

An overnight change

Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, this has changed entirely. Covid-19 had a huge impact on workforces around the world. Office workers find themselves working from home as the norm. Many in other sectors have been furloughed, or even laid off. These are the immediate and most obvious results of the virus. However, the way that employers manage employee wellbeing has also been changed overnight, with new requirements and areas to consider all around.

Now, even an absence of a day or two needs careful monitoring. Does the person have a minor bug or something more serious? Could it be Covid-19? Unwell employees need to be kept away from colleagues – who might they have been in contact with before they showed symptoms? Sickness information needs to be collected, analyze, and used by managers, all while continuing to respect employee privacy.

Most office workers remain working from home, seemingly at least for the next few months. But more and more non-office working spaces are preparing to reopen. Non-essential retailers, bars, and restaurants are all looking to open their doors again soon in the UK, and this means that managers will have entire teams now subject to a ‘return to work’ process. It’s important to know who may have had Covid-19, who will require a change to their working conditions, and who might be at risk. Processes such as staggered shifts to minimize employee contact should be put in place, and sentiment throughout – whether they feel the process is safe and effective or not – should be gathered.

Becoming proactive, not reactive to managing sickness

Finally, while Covid-19 remains endemic in the community, companies should be taking a proactive stance in handling staff sickness. Your HR processes can no longer rely on spreadsheets and paper records – there needs to be specific technology in place to give actionable insights to managers. If an employee records absence due to sickness, you need this information at your fingertips, whether that’s to alert other team members to self-isolate, point affected team members to wellbeing resources, or build a picture of the wider workforce impact.

Our sickness tracking solution helps organizations understand sickness absence to take action and champion employee wellbeing with preventative insight and reporting tools. Talk to our absence experts today on 0333 300 3403 or email us at enquiries@e-days.com. Effective sickness management will protect your people and your organization.


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Katrina Bennett People Director at edays
June 4, 2020

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.