How to deal with staff absenteeism

Statistics from the Forum of Private Businesses show that ‘dubious’ staff absences can cost small businesses £1,618 per employee each year, and over 10% of the small business workforce were off sick for more than seven days at a time last year.


Statistics from the Forum of Private Businesses show that ‘dubious’ staff absences can cost small businesses £1,618 per employee each year, and over 10% of the small business workforce were off sick for more than seven days at a time last year.

Statistics from the Forum of Private Businesses show that ‘dubious’ staff absences can cost small businesses £1,618 per employee each year, and over 10% of the small business workforce were off sick for more than seven days at a time last year. So what measures can you take to minimise the amount of days employees are absent?

Enforce strict ‘absence’ procedures

Olwyn Burgess, expert at recruitment portal Monster.co.uk, the sponsors of our People Channel, says that in order to deal effectively with absenteeism, staff should be very clear about the company policy.

“A staff handbook is an ideal way to state policies clearly. Areas such as holidays, sickness and absenteeism should be included and clearly outlined,” she says.

The handbook or procedures should cover the following:

– What people should do when they are ill, such as who they should notify

– When should they notify any illness?

– When do they need to provide a doctorÂ’s note?

– On their return, what should they do?

– How much sickness time in terms of days is acceptable in any year and what happens if this is exceeded?

Documenting the number of days of absence, and reasons for this absence on a form is also a good idea, as it will allow you to monitor the situation more effectively and identify any potential problems. According to Burgess, early identification of problems is important to enable the situation to be nipped in the bud rather than allowing it to escalate.

“If processes are in place and well documented and communicated, managers are able to act on correct information rather than ‘hunches’ or impressions. It may seem onerous and time-consuming to put these processes in place, but it will save a lot of time and emotion in the long term,” affirms Burgess.

Identify the reasons for absences

When an employee returns to work after a long period of absence, a ‘return to work interview’ should be carried out. This will ensure that you are taking an interest in your employees’ welfare, and will make them realise that their absence has been noted.

There is also a two-way benefit here – an informal interview will give an employee the chance to bring up any problems or concerns that could be the cause of absences. It’s also a good idea to involve a line manager, as it’s important to create an atmosphere where the employee can feel at ease.

Consider incentives to motivate staff

Causes for absence are most usually linked to employeesÂ’ dissatisfaction with their jobs or an unstimulating work environment. Consider offering incentives that will encourage your employees to turn up, and be ready for work.

For example, you could offer extended lunch hours on agreed days, promote healthy eating or even offer those who have a good employment record an extra day of holiday each year. This can seem like extra costs to take on, but it could save you more in the long-term. If you offer sick pay, consider whether your scheme is motivational.

Think about introducing flexible working or policies that are family-friendly – recent research has highlighted that this can be effective with employees. Click here to find out more.

However, as with sickness absence, be sure to monitor stringently the effectiveness of any incentives you put in place.

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