Seven steps to managing absence in the workplace

To
tackle absenteeism effectively, says Paul Roberts, you must establish a
solution that lets you detect and address the situation early to avoid
short-term absenteeism becoming a long term issue.

1
Ensure you have a clear policy in place

Your
company policy should be easy to understand and not open to varying
interpretations.  It should outline
details such as when an employee is entitled to be absent from the workplace,
at what time the employee must inform their line manager that they are absent,
and where employees should go for support.

2
Act on day one

The
first action to manage absenteeism should be on the first day that an employee
is not present in the workplace.  Check
the facts surrounding the absence and address any resulting workload issues to
ensure business continues.  Line
managers should highlight the services available to support the employee such
as health insurance policies, company doctor services or an employee assistance
programme.  Ensure your line managers
are fully supported and have the relevant training to ensure they keep within
the employment legal framework, such as the Disability and Discrimination Act
(DDA), Medical Reports Act and the Data Protection Act.  

3
Review at week three

This
trigger point is to catch cases that start to become long-term. Fifteen days of
absence is nearly twice the national average. 
A system that highlights an employee who is absent for 15 days will
ensure that the organisation is supporting the employee, their family, and
facilitating return to work.

Discussions
should focus positively on when the employee is likely to return.  If the case is serious, occupational health
professionals can be utilised to give an independent medical opinion. Managers
can base their business decisions on this information and take it into account
if the DDA applies.

4
Monitor trends

Trends
often emerge among absent employees. Working practices, times of opening and
commercial deadlines can all play a part, rather than illness itself. Ensuring
you record reasons for absence will enable you to identify trends in the
workplace to help avoid future absentee cases.

5
Nominate departmental responsibility

Integrating
health services is the key to providing the best and fastest support to the
employee, resulting in an early return to work. In many organisations, a range
of departments have some input into health services, such as compensation and
benefits, health and safety, and HR. Often, these services overlap, leading to
duplication. Nominate one department to be responsible for all health
providers, insurers and services, to achieve economies of scale and to avoid
duplication.

6
Involve others

Absence
management is a team effort and should not fall to just one person. Involving
relevant parties in the solution will relieve the burden and highlight that
tackling absenteeism is a normal part of working at your organisation, and not
a flash-in-the-pan project.

7
Communicate

Make
sure all employees know what support is available and how to access it.

Paul
Roberts is a healthcare consultant at healthcare broker and employee well-being
specialist IHC

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