Managing Absence

What is absence management?

Absence management is the process of mitigating the impact on a business of planned or unplanned staff absence.

Such absence may result from expected causes, such as sickness, injury, or annual leave, or indeed be entirely unexplained (ie AWOL ‘absent without leave’).

Absence management not only involves dealing with specific individual cases as they occur, but also with putting in place pre-emptive company-wide measures for the future.

Why is absence management important?

Absence management is critical to the smooth running of a business, not simply from a productivity and financial point of view, but because it is often one of the first visible signs of underlying wellbeing issues.

Consequently, managing absence is not necessarily about managing performance through a disciplinary process. Indeed, prematurely adopting such a heavy-handed approach could result in exacerbating the situation by triggering claims of discrimination in relation to the Equality Act 2010.

A significant proportion of all absence is due to psychological ill health or musculoskeletal disorders, so absence management can often become a matter of supporting long-term sickness and disability.

Likewise, it can be a symptom of substance misuse.

Alternatively, it may be a consequence of non-medical issues, such as bullying, or the pressures of caring for a family.

Widespread absence can also be a sign of poor workforce morale or a problematic company culture.

Such issues will typically become progressively worse if they are not identified and dealt with in a timely manner.

Importantly, staff absence can place additional strain on those colleagues who need to provide cover, which in turn can affect their own wellbeing. This then risks causing a cascade effect.

In addition to directly benefiting employees, the provision of such support offers an excellent return-on-investment (ROI) in terms of mitigating against a number of significant business risks:

How can we help you manage absence?

We can identify the underlying causes for specific cases of individual staff absence, and then help you undertake the most appropriate course of action to deal with them, such as referral to occupational health services.

We can also help you put in place wider company procedures that cover such operational areas as absence notification procedures, payment terms, and return to work support. Implementing such an absence or sickness policy provides a framework to manage expectations, such that an absent employee then fully understands not only what is expected of them whilst they are away, but also conversely the obligations and duty-of-care of their employer.

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