SICKNESS ABSENCE IS ON THE RISE: WHERE DOES IT LEAVE EMPLOYERS?
The average sickness absence days are up by two days to 7.8 sick days which is a 34% increase on the pre-COVID average, according to a recent report published by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development. This rise in sickness absences can be attributed to a variety of factors, including minor ailments such as colds, flu, or stomach upsets, and long-term illnesses, such as musculoskeletal disorders and mental health conditions.
This surge in sickness absences directly and indirectly impacts on business operations. Directly, there is a decrease in productivity due to a reduced number of available employees. Indirectly, the remaining employees may face an increased workload. Furthermore, there may be financial consequences if productivity is down and the cost of temporary labour or additional overtime has to be accounted for.
While statistics and reports help to confirm what businesses are already experiencing, the crux of the issue is how can they manage this increasing problem, while at the same time navigating the legal requirements that must be satisfied when managing sickness absences. With that being said, improving sickness absence management and reducing the level of absences can be achievable. While each business' response will be different, there are some key activities that should be considered by employers in the quest for reducing absences:
Review policies and procedures. While it is not a legal requirement in the UK to have a sickness absence policy, it is recommended that all businesses implement a well-crafted sickness absence policy, which is accessible. As a minimum the policy should outline the notification process that employees should adhere to when they are unwell, clarify their pay entitlement, confirm return to work interviews will occur, explain how absences are managed and notify employees that medical examinations may be required. To support a proactive absence system, it is essential the policies and procedures are regularly reviewed to ensure that they comply with current good practice and any legal requirements, as well as being relevant to the business.
Accurately record and monitor absences. This is an important activity as this data will allow for a better understanding of absence patterns and the reasons for the absences. This allows for the identification of opportunities to improve the situation.
Consider the working culture and the environment. For example, if the culture is dynamic and fast paced, should there be a wellbeing programme to support colleagues from “burn out”. Likewise in a safety critical work environment, have health and safety risks assessments been undertaken to ensure the workplace is safe and colleagues have the right equipment to do their jobs properly. While these options may involve more management time, regular catch ups with managers can also be a simple and quick means of identifying health issues at any early stage so measures can be taken to prevent sickness absence. However, managers will need to be equipped to manage these meetings and sickness absence.
Consider if wellbeing initiatives will assist. Asking colleagues what they might find useful is a valuable exercise as this may identify low key initiatives that could make a lot of difference i.e., a day off for a birthday. On the other hand, gym memberships or even an Employee Assistance Programme may be what is required. Whatever the initiative, ensure colleagues are aware of the benefits available to them.
Having a HR system is a good tool for managing absence, documents and employment history. Find out how Sentinel can benefit your Business.
To find out more about how we can assist your business in developing its workplace wellbeing and absence management policies, contact FG Solicitors today on 0808 172 93 22 or complete our quick contact form for a no obligation discussion!
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This update is for general guidance only and advice should be taken in relation to a particular set of circumstances.