Recent figures released by the office of national statistics show that over 131 million working days are lost to sickness absence each year costing an average of £522 per employee (CIPD Absence Management Survey Report 2016).
To put this into perspective, for an organisation employing a 100 people the cost of absences each year is £52,200!
The costs of sickness absence
Most companies are all too aware of the direct cost of sickness absence including having to pay:
- Statutory sick pay
- Occupational sick pay
- Paying overtime
- Pay for temporary cover
The indirect consequences of absence
But there are also indirect consequences such as:
- Low morale – increased workload for employees having to cover for absent colleagues
- Increased number of mistakes and drop in service – due to a higher workload for employees
- Lower productivity – regular absences mean that there is a lack of consistency within teams which leads to delays and missed deadlines
Absence rates tend to be highest in larger organisations and especially in the public sector where the average employee has over three days more absence than their private sector counterparts.
What are the main causes of sickness absence?
CIPD Absence Management Survey Report 2016 has reported on the main causes of both short term and long terms absences from work.
Short term absence
The main causes of short term absence (i.e. less than 4 weeks) were:
- Minor illnesses such as colds, flu, stomach upset, headaches and migraines
- Stress due to workload and/or management style
- Family and personal illness related issues
- Musculoskeletal injuries such as neck strains and repetitive strain injuries
- Home and family responsibilities such as caring for sick family members
Long term absence
The main causes of long term absence were stress (mainly due to working conditions and environment), acute medical conditions (heart attack, stroke and cancer), mental ill health (clinical depression and anxiety) and back pain.
What should an absence management policy contain
Every organisation should have an absence policy which supports the business objectives and explains the rights of employees when they are absent from work.
Some of the key points to include in your absence management policy are:
- Provide details of sick pay (contractual and SSP)
- Explain when and who employees should notify if they are not able to attend work
- Specify after how many days an employee can fill in a self-certificate form or they need to obtain a fit note.
- Make provisions for return-to-work interviews
- Give guidance on absence during major or adverse events such as a terrorist attack, bad weather or sporting events
How to manage employee absence
Having effective intervention points can reduce the frequency and length of time an employee is absent from work.
Some of the most common methods used are:
Fit notes (previously known as sick notes)
If an employee is absent for more than 7 consecutive days you should ask them to provide a fit note. This will state whether the employee is to have a phased return to work, amended duties, altered hours or workplace adaptations.
Return to work interviews
This can deter non-genuine absences and help you identify any underlying health issues which will need to be considered when putting measures into place to avoid further time being taken off.
Unacceptable levels of absence can be tackled by using an organisations disciplinary procedure. However, care needs to be taken and often it is best to speak to a professional before taking this action.
Restrict sick pay
Whilst this may not be the ideal option for many organisations, paying SSP only is proven to slash absence rates.
Allowing staff to work from home has shown to be effective in reducing stress related absences as it helps to achieve a better work/life balance. It can also help reduce time taken off to care for family members as working days can be swapped to meet their needs.
Promote healthy living
Perks like free gym membership or having subsidised healthy meals is a great way to promote a better lifestyle and keep employees fit for work.
Can reduce the amount of time taken off for long term absences by providing rehabilitation services to help the employee return to work.
Organisations should be aware of ACAS Code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures as well as the disability discrimination provisions contained in the Equality Act 2010 when devising their absence management policy and plan.
How we can help with your absence management
High levels of absence can have a significant negative impact on the overall success of a business if left unaddressed.
The HR consultants of PeoplePointHR have a proven track record of working with businesses and developing their absence management policies to reduce the number of days lost to sickness absence.
We will take following steps to assist you:
- Create a monitoring process for all absences in your organisation
- Review you current absence records and associated documentation
- Determine if there are any underlying themes or causes for absence
- Review your current absence management policies and procedures
- Produce a refined absence management policy coupled with a set of procedures and associated documentation that will address any previous absence management concerns
- Provide management training and guidance on how to apply the absence management policy for best effect
Our expert guidance and assistance will ensure that your organisation can effectively manage and reduce absence allowing your business to prosper and be successful in the future. Call us today on 0330 555 2555.