Sickness and absence in the workplace - Employee absenteeism

Implementing a robust sick leave policy

When the pressure is on for businesses to keep productivity up and costs down, it’s important to keep on top of absenteeism in the workplace.

All staff fall ill occasionally and have to take sick leave – flu, stomach bugs and strains can afflict anyone. Government figures show that an estimated 137.3 million working days were lost in 2016 to sickness or injury. That’s equivalent to 4.3 days per worker.

While it’s good news that UK sickness rates have generally fallen steadily in recent years, firms still need to be sure they are operating at their optimal best.  One way of doing this is to give your business its own health check when it comes to absenteeism – and this means checking that you are implementing a robust sick leave policy.

  • Monitor employee health – businesses can struggle with keeping on top of their sickness rate data. It can be especially difficult in small and medium-sized enterprises to keep up with workers on different sites and varied shifts calling in sick. Smaller firms may not have dedicated HR professionals, leaving it to busy managers. It’s important that you consider your firm’s processes for reporting and recording sick leave – do workers know how to report sickness? Do supervisors know what to do with that information?
  • Analyse sickness rates – employers can analyse their absenteeism and sickness data to identify the causes and the groups that have higher rates of sickness absence. While minor illnesses (coughs and colds) are most common, stress, depression and musculoskeletal disorders also account for short and long term sickness absences. Analysis can help you develop and target policies that aim to give effective support for workers, promote healthy working environments, and also help reduce sick rates.
  • Be clear about sick leave procedures, sick pay and the law – make sure you follow government guidelines about sick leave and other absences. e.g. Up to 7 days sick leave requires only ‘self-certification’ by the employee which means completion by the employee of a form which the employer provides.
  • Check your payroll processes – make sure your systems can calculate and implement the correct sick pay. The best systems will integrate reporting/authorisation procedures with payroll so that the correct sick pay rates can be applied accurately and promptly.
  • Trust your staff and build engagement – this in itself will help keep your staff motivated and on board. Owner-managers in smaller firms have a greater role and influence over company culture, staff wellbeing and health. It is well-known that businesses with positively engaged workers tend to have lower rates of sickness.

A common challenge for businesses in dealing with sickness is a lack of time. However, effective HR practices, monitoring and analysis, and good knowledge about sick leave procedures will add up to having a robust sick leave policy.

An automated time and attendance system can help you keep track of who is on sick leave, for how long and what you should pay them. Not only this, but the system means that managers or HR professionals have ready access to absentee data and trends within the company. These can be interrogated to make sure that you are optimising your resources.

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