8 ways to successfully manage absence

Posted on December 17, 2015 by Richard Ellor

8 ways to successfully manage absenceMeasuring and managing absence is crucial to running a successful organisation. The average cost of absence is £554 per employee1, if you apply this to all your employees then you can begin to see how not managing absence will affect your business.

Setting absence targets that you hope to achieve can help to give you a clear goal and keep costs down. Yet, just 25% of organisations achieved their absence target in 2014. So how can a business successfully manage absence to ensure they achieve their target?

How does flexible working reduce absence?

Put simply, flexible working gives employees the option to adjust their working hours or work from home when they need to. By giving employees this flexibility they'll be able to deal with external pressures outside of work without having the added stress of strict timeframes and locations. This can reduce the likelihood of them needing time off due to stress-related illness.

Absence management training for line managers

Providing line managers with absence management training frequently leads to reduced absence rates. It can give them the tools and knowledge to confidently speak to employees and identify any patterns of absence. Not only does this develop the management team as a whole, it directly affects the accuracy of recording and monitoring absence rates.

The need for this approach has been embraced by most organisations, with developing line manager capability to manage absence being the most common change made1.

Return to work interviews

The notion of return to work interviews can sometimes be misunderstood. The purpose of this process is not to challenge or accuse employees, but to understand their reason for absence, record the information and reassure them they'll receive the support they need. It is essential that businesses have a set process in place that includes an easy to use return to work form. By diligently communicating with employees businesses can foster relationships that result in accurate absence patterns.

Employee Assistance Programmes

Absence management is about more than simply reacting; by being proactive companies can help struggling employees sooner and reduce the chance of stress-related illnesses developing.

Employee Assistance Programmes can help to reduce absence by offering employees support on a range of issues including:

  • Financial worries
  • Stress management
  • Workplace relationships
  • Personal relationships
  • Mental health

Fit notes for long-term absence

If an employee is, or is likely to be, absent from work for more than seven days, then they can get a fit note from their GP. A fit note acts as a guide for employers and will detail the steps that need to be taken to ensure an employee can come back to work successfully. It can also act as a good conversation starter in the context of a return to work interviews.

You can find out more about fit notes on the Government website.

Attendance rewards

Rewarding employees for 100% attendance is becoming increasingly popular among businesses. Incentives can include an extra day's annual leave, a bonus in the employee's pay package and allowing employees to have a half day once a month.

While incentivising a 100% attendance record can prove successful, it is important to keep in mind that necessary absence should not be counted as part of an attendance record. Otherwise employees who genuinely need time off and don't reap the rewards of a '100%' attendance may become disillusioned.

Encourage employees to be healthy

To successfully manage absence employers should play a role in motivating their employees to be healthy. Offering benefits such as free gym membership or even investing in an on-site gym can really encourage employees to be active. Find out more on how to motivate employees to be healthy.

Income protection

An income protection policy can help employers to reduce indirect costs that usually occur due to absence. For a small monthly premium, the policy provides sick or injured staff with a monthly salary, saving employers money in terms of occupational sick pay. Income protection typically comes with a rehabilitation service to help get an employee back to work.

Discover more about measuring and managing absence with this CIPD factsheet.

1 2015 CIPD Absence Management Survey