Every employee will need time off work from time-to-time and most will have genuine reasons for absenteeism such as illness or transport issues.
But what if these one-off absences become habitual, and for some employees, it becomes the rule rather than the exception? Whether the absence is genuine, or you suspect that the individual is being disingenuous, you may be unsure how to manage the process to ensure a swift return to work. If your business has a high level of short or long-term absenteeism, this can have a knock-on effect not only on productivity but on the morale of other employees.
What can you do as an employer to ensure that unplanned absences are minimised, and how can you deal with the minority of individuals whose absences are not genuine?
As an employer, you should ensure that you have a clear and well-communicated Absence Policy, which identifies the processes for reporting, managing and recording reasons for absence. This should clearly identify what is expected of employees and highlight reasonable trigger points for managing unacceptable levels of absence, as well as the support available for employees with genuine reasons for their absences. It will also help your managers understand the process for managing excessive absence and ensure consistency across the workplace.
There should also be an absence monitoring system in place which can help identify any patterns in absences. For instance, you may see commonalities in the reasons for absence among employees carrying out the same or similar roles, which could identify a training need. Or, you may find that certain employee absences coincide with a particular day of the week – Mondays and Fridays are obvious examples. Furthermore, you may be able to identify that employees with strict deadlines or high workloads are more likely to have stress-related absences. Identifying trends will help you to ensure that your employees are supported with the right training, or perhaps mental health support, which will, in turn, improve attendance and increase productivity.
Conducting return-to-work interviews enables employers to discuss the reasons behind employees’ absences to identify measures which can help prevent further absenteeism and enable a smooth transition back to work. Return-to-work interviews provide the opportunity to offer help in a supported environment and enable planning for potential long-term absences with advance notice. It is also an opportunity to consider whether or not the Equality Act 2010 might apply, so you can act accordingly and, for example, consider any reasonable adjustments that might enable the individual to give better attendance.
If absence persists and is not genuine, then you may need to take formal action (as set out in the Policy). For support in ensuring your Absence Policy is legally compliant, and effective, please contact the Hibberts Employment Team here.