How to manage absence in winter – weather, illness and ‘no shows’
Managing employee absence in winter can seem like an uphill struggle.
If it’s not sickness, it’s the weather, or dreaded ‘no shows’.
The cost of staff absence in winter can soar for businesses. While unexpected staff absence is always a concern, this can escalate during the cold winter months.
Staff are genuinely more prone to colds and flu at this time of year. But so is a sneaky ‘duvet day’.
Managers must handle staff winter absence properly in the interests of the business and for the well-being of their staff.
Absences can have a disproportionate effect on businesses. So it’s important you have a policy for ‘no shows’ and know how to deal with unplanned absences.
The cost of winter absence
Loss of productivity through sickness at work has long been a serious concern to employers.
It’s estimated that 118.6 million working days were lost due to sickness or injury in the UK in 2020.
And a Personnel Today 2015 sickness absence survey of 670 organisations estimated that illness costs UK employers a whopping £16 billion a year.
Minor illnesses, coughs and colds were amongst the most common reason that workers kept away from work.
While illnesses are unavoidable, managers and supervisors need to plan for employee absence in winter.
How to prepare for bad attendance
- Be clear
Managers should ensure that staff are aware of what they should do when they cannot show up for work on time.
Include your sickness or lateness policy and procedures in their induction pack; it is also a good idea to make it accessible digitally either via email or on a company intranet.
Employees are not automatically entitled to be paid if they do not turn up to work on time due to travel problems. However many employers will make allowances and not deduct pay when genuine problems occur.
- Know the law
Currently, an employee needs to give their employer a ‘fit note’ (formerly ‘sick note’) after 7 days off work.
Up to 7 days of sick leave requires only ‘self-certification’, completion by the employee of a form which the employer provides.
- Be flexible
It can be counterproductive to come down hard every time workers are occasionally late or absent due to travel woes.
So be flexible and discuss whether the employee could work from home due to travel disruptions.
It’s your chance as a manager to help improve staff morale and keep up productivity.
you also don’t want germs flying around the office if unnecessary.
- Be consistent
You must deal with all workers fairly, equally and per your firm’s policies.
ACAS reminds employers that being consistent will maintain good relations and head off complaints about favouritism or victimisation which could land you in an employment tribunal.
Have your sick pay arrangements in place
Some staff time and attendance software integrate with payroll which can streamline the process for you. These systems let you apply sick pay rates correctly and promptly.
- Plan ahead for travel
When employer and employee become aware of a forthcoming travel problem e.g. transport strike, temporary road works, then they should plan for that period.
The manager could discuss with their employee having a different flexible working pattern during that period which might also involve working from home.
Businesses in flood-risk areas can sign up to the Environment Agency for a free flooding-alert service.
- Be aware of the real-time picture
Managers and supervisors will ultimately need to know who’s in and who’s not to meet the demands of the working day.
They can consult HR staff or other managers but a more efficient way of finding out this information is having an automated time and attendance system which shows you real-time clocking in data.
You can log in from any location at any time to check that your workers are on track. In case of absences, you’ll be able to make cover arrangements to fulfil the work that needs to be done that day.
How uAttend can help keep your absence in check
Occasional employee absence in winter is part of life, but if you’re prepared businesses don’t need to suffer winter woes.
It makes good sense for employers to keep rates of sickness as low as possible. Sickness can disrupt schedules and productivity because unlike planned holidays it’s unexpected and can occur at any time.
uAttend is an automated cloud-based time and attendance system which can help you manage unplanned absences.
The clocking-in function feeds data to the system so it can report on the extent of absences and lateness so managers can review where any escalation is required.
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