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Tags: blog, Wellbeing

Employee absenteeism can have negative consequences for a business, especially in terms of productivity, workforce disengagement and stress, especially for those who are left to cover the workload of those who are absent. Cost is also a significant factor – according to mental health.org, 70 million work days are lost each year, many as a result of mental health challenges, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion a year.

In 2021, sickness absence in the UK rose to 2.2%, which is the highest it has been since 2010 (Office for National Statistics: Sickness absence in the UK labour market in 2021). Last year an estimated 149.3 million working days were lost because of sickness or injury, which equates to 4.6 days per worker (Office for National Statistics). It’s no surprise that the most common reason for absence has been COVID-19, which has accounted for nearly one in four of all occurrences.

This is why effective management is absolutely essential, a focus which should be a top priority for all employers. Monitoring absence will help businesses identify patterns and causes, subsequently helping them to design relevant absence management plans that will make a difference. Best practice typically includes attendance strategies, return to work programmes and line manager resources to ensure middle management are equipped with the right tools to support their teams. As noted by XpertHR, a UK leading HR advisory service, “training line managers in absence management gives them the confidence to tackle…non-attendance issues frequently leading to reduced absence rates.”

Here are our top tips to help you as an employer manage short and long term staff absence.

Communicate a clear attendance policy

HR functions need to ensure the business has a clear attendance policy so employees understand exactly what the process is including what is expected of them. Policies should include; how employees should report absence, the responsibility of the line manager, particularly in terms of support needed for the employee, how the company will follow-up on unsanctioned absences and the consequences for unreported and frequent absence. Leadership and managers should then ensure there is clear communication of the policy so teams understand expectations and consequences.

Address unreported absences immediately

It’s important employers are consistent with their absence policy, addressing absences as they occur. This can help managers understand the reason behind the absence and what support employees might need to improve the situation, hopefully helping to reduce repeated cases.

Reward good attendance and hard work

In a climate where people are faced with numerous work and life challenges, it’s important to continue to recognise and reward hard work. This could be either in the form of reward schemes, team activities / offsite days, employee of the month celebrations and / or company wide announcements. This will help to drive a positive and engaged culture where employees feel valued and respected.

Prioritise employee wellbeing and engagement

Absenteeism can often be linked to a stressful and unhealthy work environment where employees may not feel supported. Wellbeing strategies which include benefit packages, employee assistance resources and advice on proactive health management provide employees with a range of options to suit their needs. Internal engagement and communication strategies are also vital in regularly connecting with employees to ensure they understand how their work is contributing to the overall strategy of the company, provide opportunities for them to share feedback and suggest improvements, ultimately helping them to feel valued and a key component of the company. Wellbeing surveys are also fundamental in ensuring leadership have an accurate temperature check on how their teams are feeling and what challenges they may be faced with.

A culture that creates a sense of belonging can substantially increase engagement, productivity and retention. According to research conducted by BetterUp, a UK coaching and mentoring consultancy, “employees who feel they belong take 75% fewer sick days” and it can also “lead to a 50% lower risk of turn over”.

For more advice and opinion on how to improve health and wellbeing in the workplace, check out our other advisory articles.

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Managing stress at work
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