New HR manager halves employee absence at Shepway District Council

A sicknote-struck local authority has credited a new HR manager with halving employee absence in 2006.

Shepway District Council appointed Wendy Head this year on a mandate to slash absenteeism that peaked at 12 days per person in 2005.

This was delaying projects, piling pressure on other employees and undermining staff morale, according to the council.

Head discovered that there was no absence management policy at the council and that workers often informed colleagues they would be off work sick by text message or e-mail.

Head enlisted the help of local occupational health specialist Premier Occupational Health, which implemented processes to manage the long-term sick, including a process for sickness absence recording and rehabilitation to help employees get back to work. 

She then ensured the council focused on an absence management policy to ensure all managers knew their responsibilities and the support available to them.

Training based around case studies and role playing was also delivered to build confidence in dealing with specific and difficult absence situations.

Under her stewardship, Shepway has seen absenteeism levels drop by half and long term ill-health cut from 14 cases to just two.

Head said: “Managers now have a clear understanding of how to deal with absence, with the result that the number of cases has dropped significantly.”

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