“Employee absence” is a broad term we use to refer to any instance where an employee isn’t at work, when they might have been otherwise.
Indeed, it might surprise you just how many different types of absence exist. Some forms of absence are an essential part of running a business. Others can be disruptive if you don’t manage them correctly. But all types of absence are completely unavoidable.
Absence is not something you have to overcome. It’s something that’s going to happen, whether you like it or not, so it’s best to learn to work with it!
In this post we’ll explore the various different types of absence. We’ll describe what each type is, and discuss how it might affect your business. Then we’ll offer some tips on how you can manage each type of absence to minimise disruption, and to do what’s right for your employees.
Planned absence might also be known as authorised absence. Your team, and your business, needs this to survive.
The most common form of planned absence is annual leave, or holiday.
We shouldn’t have to explain why holiday is good for your employees and your business. Employees that work flat-out without taking breaks will probably not be the most productive members of your team. All work and no play can also make stress and burnout more likely, which can be very bad for business.
If you want your people to be happy and fulfilled in their work, it’s essential that they enjoy the best possible work/life balance. Planned absence is a major part of this. We all need a break now and then.
Other types of planned absence include parental leave and compassionate leave. Obviously, neither of these things can be classed as a “holiday”. What links these forms of absence is that you’re aware of them in advance. You know when and for how long the employee’s going to be absent, so it’s quite easy to organise shifts and make other preparations to deal with the absence.
The Problem with Planned Absence
A major challenge with planned absence is figuring out just how much entitlement each member of your team gets.
In UK law, most UK employees are entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave a year. If you work full time hours five days a week, that extends to 28 days a year (as 5 x 5.6 = 28).
It’s up to you whether you include Bank Holidays in these 28 days. It’s also up to you whether you give your employees more than their statutory 5.6 weeks’ leave a year.
Many employers run into difficulties when working out leave entitlement.
One big problem is the question of holiday accrual. Employees accrue holiday from the day they start working for you. But what if they joined your team midway through your holiday year? Or what if they leave partway through the year, and they’ve taken more leave than they were technically allowed? To help you deal with these situations, we prepared this guide to calculating accrued holiday.
It can also be a challenge to work out holiday entitlement for part-time employees, or for any members of your team who work on zero-hour contracts. So here’s our guide to calculating pro-rate entitlement. And here’s our guide to calculating leave allowance and pay for zero-hour workers.
Finally, there’s the question of holiday carryover. If employees reach the end of the holiday year with some days leftover, are they allowed to carry them over into the next year? Read our guide to this surprisingly-tricky issue here.
There are many causes of unplanned absence in the workplace. But whether you’re dealing with a minor illness or a serious case of mental ill health, the effect is the same: a blow to employee wellbeing, coupled with some costly business disruption!
Unplanned absence costs businesses billions each year. When an employee calls in sick, or takes time off work due to an injury or another kind of ailment, they’ll get sick pay. It’s their right. But your business will get nothing in return – just a big hole where that employee should be.
Think of all the things that don’t happen when even a single employee misses a single day of work. How many sales opportunities will be lost? How many conversations won’t take place that might have contributed to your growth?
Plus, unless the rest of the team steps up, you could miss orders, and even lose customers. The rest of the team may have to spread themselves too thin to help pick up the slack. This will likely lead to a further loss in productivity, along with a lot of resentment. It could even lead to further absences down the line, as the stress levels rise for your overworked staff.
Unplanned absence is costly and disruptive. It’s also unavoidable. People get sick and people get injured. It happens. Which is why you need to take steps to safeguard your business against the effects of unplanned absence.
Dealing with Unplanned Absence
You’ll never be able to entirely eradicate unplanned absence from the workplace. But there are many steps you can take to reduce staff sickness in your business. Strategies can involve rethinking your workplace environment, removing common causes of accident and injury, and introducing a sophisticated employee wellbeing scheme to make your team healthier and happier in themselves. Read our full guide to reducing unplanned absenteeism here.
When your employees are signed off sick, you might be tempted to call on them. Perhaps you want to check to see if they’re alright. Or maybe you want to make absolutely sure that they’re truly ill, and they’re not faking it. Or maybe the absent employee is the only person in the office who remembers a certain password, one that you need to know right away.
The thing is, it’s almost always a bad idea to call employees when they’re off sick. Here’s 10 reasons why.
Another thing to be aware of when it comes to unplanned absence: Some employees may feel obliged to carry on working from home. If they’re genuinely well enough to do so, fantastic! But really, employees should be using their sick leave to convalesce. This issue is best approached on a case-by-case basis. Head here to read our complete guide to what to do if your employees work while signed-off sick.
Finally, it’s relatively simple to manage unplanned absence. But instances of long-term sickness are a lot more complicated. You’ll need to define your policies and procedures to ensure that long-term sickness doesn’t scupper your company. You’ll also have to put plans in place to make the sort of “reasonable adjustments” recovering employees need to eventually return back to work. Head here to read our essential guide to managing long-term sickness.
Unauthorised absence is where employees take time off work without letting you know, and not necessarily because they’re suffering from ill health or injuries. Instead, they simply didn’t want to come to work that day.
Skiving, or “pulling a sickie”, is a common form of unauthorised absence. But you could also think of excessive lateness as an example of unauthorised absence, or even instances where employees choose to go home early without your permission.
Unauthorised absence is a particularly disruptive form of absence. Not only do you run into all the same problems that you would have with unplanned absence – such as under staffing – you also have to deal with the possibility that your workers simply don’t respect you. Or worse, that they find no satisfaction or fulfilment in their jobs. Because if they found their jobs fulfilling, they’d feel no need to skive!
Isolated instances of unauthorised absence are annoying, but manageable. But if it keeps happening, it might suggest that you have much serious issues to deal with than the odd lost day here and there.
How to Manage Unauthorised Absence
You can read our complete guide to managing unauthorised absence here. Clear guidance in employee contracts and handbooks, as well as routine return to work interviews, may deter employees from pulling a sickie. Couple these measures with an intelligent employee wellbeing program and you can attack many of the root causes of unauthorised absence in your business.
But you still have to ask yourself – what if there was a good reason for the unauthorised absence? What if the employee just needed a rest?
If this is the case, it might be time to consider the redemptive powers of a “duvet day”. This is an increasingly popular scheme where you allow employees to take a day or so to recuperate. It might sound disruptive and counterintuitive. But if stressed and unproducted employees are the alternative, then it might be your best option! Head here to read the business case for, and against, duvet days.
Two Things to Help You Manage All Forms of Absence
Each form of absence comes with its own set of challenges. But it’s easy to manage, so long as you’re adequately prepared.
These two things will help you safeguard your business against disruption:
- An Absence Policy – This document should be tailored to suit your unique business requirements. It should clearly outline all of the processes and workflow that govern absences in your company, from holiday allowance to your expectations for employees who need to call in sick. Head here for our guide to what to include in your absence policy, and the benefits this document may bring.
- Absence Management Software – Our system can automatically calculate each employee’s holiday allowance while making it as easy as possible for any member of your team to book leave. Meanwhile, advanced reporting features provide a detailed overview of your absence data, which may provide the insights you need to reduce unplanned absences in your organisation. Head here to learn five major benefits of absence management software.
Any business of any size can use the e-days absence management system to streamline their processes, save time and money, and make life easier for everyone. Head here to explore all of our features in greater depth.
But to truly understand how our world-famous system could transform your business, you’ll have to see it in action. That’s why we’re offering you a free trial, so you can experience the benefits for yourself with no risk, and no obligation to buy.