Absence records to present firms with admin nightmare

Employers will struggle to manage staff absence effectively following the
publication of the Information Commission’s code of practice on employment

Although employers do have the right to keep absence records, which was
prohibited in the original draft of the code, they will need the individual
consent of each member of staff to record sickness details.

HR professionals believe the code will cause confusion, increase
administration and bureaucracy and prevent organisations identifying specific
absenteeism problems.

Mark O’Connell, HR director at financial services firm Skandia, is concerned
his system for recording sickness absence and ensuring confidentiality breaches
the code, which outlines employers’ responsibilities under the 1998 Data
Protection Act.

He said: "It is ludicrous that we have to keep two separate files and
have to ask permission to record the reason for absence. It is not very
practical. How can companies assess if they have an absence management

Frances Wright, HR director at SHL, also believes the code will create more
red tape and hinder employers’ efforts to tackle absenteeism. "HR needs to
be able to classify the reasons for absence to manage sickness absence,"
she explained.

Other concerns are that the code is too long and unwieldy. The CIPD’s lead
adviser on public policy, Diane Sinclair, thinks it will add to the
administrative burden and is ambiguous in parts.

However, David Smith, assistant information commissioner at the Information
Commission, defended the code. "It should not lead to extra administration
work for companies if they think ahead on record keeping."

By Paul Nelson

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