The winter months can present a fairly lethal concoction of problems for those trying to manage workplace absence. The cold, dark, damp mornings, separated only briefly by sunlight, before the cold, dark, damp evenings draw in, make for a thoroughly depressing time of year.
Absence levels usually double in December, January and February, according to research by consultancy firm Mercer. Couple this with the inevitable 'day after the night before' sick days that follow Christmas parties, and the difficult return to work after the festive break when everyone is low on money and cheer, and it's clear to see why HR departments see the sicknotes pile up.
As Louise Hadland, HR director at Shoosmiths law firm, says: "We do see a seasonal trend. The dark, grey, miserable mornings, leave many tempted to stay at home."
Absence in the aftermath
The latest CBI/AXA Annual Absence and Labour Turnover Survey reported that absence cost the UK economy almost £20bn in 2008. While there will always be people with genuine illness, it is clear that skivers need to be dealt with.
Many employers manage the potential post-Christmas party fallout by clearly outlining company policy on alcohol and drugs directly before the event takes place.
For many companies, the days of the open bar are over, and the emphasis is on drinking less rather than making it all too easy for staff to over-indulge.
Managing staff members who simply can't find the motivation to turn up for work has become slightly easier since a number of absence management providers began launching computer-based tools to help companies to track and record absent staff. Many of the various HR IT systems now available can alert managers to problematic employees, which is a useful tool to have when managing large numbers.
Dudley Lusted, head of corporate healthcare development at provider AXA PPP, says: "Technology can be harnessed to provide what managers need - data that allows them to do their job, which is to manage people."
For instance, if an employee has been off