Staff absence: The direct and indirect solutions

No employer wants to force an employee to work if they are genuinely unable to do so. However, every absence will have a negative impact on a business, so it’s important to deal with it as best as possible.

What can you do to reduce sickness absence in the workplace?

Unavoidable absence can be planned for in many cases. It is often for planned reasons such as surgery, so you’ll have some knowledge of the likely duration and can make operational adjustments once an employee lets you know of their diagnosis.

Remember, the Equality Act 2010 states that an employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments when they are aware (or should reasonably be aware) that an employee has a disability.

Accepting avoidable absence is a different matter though. It can have a huge effect, impacting on staff morale and productivity.

There are also knock-on effects, such as the potential harm to customer satisfaction. Delivery deadlines can be affected when you have to cover for unexpected absences.

As we can see, the costs are varied and can be both direct and indirect:

  • Reduced productivity
  • Obligation to the pay salary or sick pay of absent workers
  • Having to find, train and pay for temporary cover
  • The possibility of reduced customer satisfaction
  • Reduction in motivation and morale

Absence is infectious in more ways than you may imagine

Conversely, absence in the workplace can actually lead to more absence. Not just from people passing on their germs to colleagues, but in creating a culture of acceptance.

An environment where people openly say “how many sick days do I have left?” can inadvertently be created by tolerating it.

Is the answer to become intolerant? Partly, but the most effective solution is to address the underlying cause of absence and understand why it’s happening.

As noted above, a culture of absence leads to a reduction in staff motivation and morale. As a result, instead of being angry and uncaring when employees are absent, employers should do the opposite and take a genuine interest in staff welfare.

By making work a better place to be for everybody, you can make a positive impact on non-genuine absence.

The direct and indirect solutions

In terms of direct solutions, you will need robust HR policies and procedures. Measuring and recording levels of absence in your workplace will mean you can manage it better in future.

Reducing absence is generally a long-term project. However, the things you do now will lead to improvements in future. It can be seen as a two-stage process:

  • Following HR procedures; from attendance monitoring, through to return-to-work interviews and a solid disciplinary process.
  • Improving employee engagement, motivation and morale; in short, creating a better environment and culture to make work a happier place to be.

One without the other can lead to positive results and decrease absence, but by following both you can reduce it as much as possible to just cases of genuine absence.

That would surely be the best result for everyone; a happier working environment and an end to employees resenting having to cover for non-genuine absentees. Persistent offenders would also no longer get away with it.

Do you want to drive down absence?

Have a chat with us about the many indirect and direct solutions to tackling absence.

In fact, why not complete this form and we’ll get in touch to chat through the options with you:

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Author Ian Denny

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