Absence is costly for any business. Monetarily it is believed absence is going to cost in excess of £17 billion per annum. However, unexpected absences lead to other challenges, as work has to be delegated to other employees and greater strain is placed on those who are present. Knowing how to manage unplanned absence is one of the most important things. Keeping that in mind, read on to discover some top tips on absence management.






Accountability – You need to have a robust policy in place that ensures all absences are accounted for. This is something the team manager should be responsible for. Irrespective of the employee’s level within the business, all team managers must be able to account for a member’s absence. In addition to this, you may wish to implement return to work interviews for managers to complete. Employee performance reviews also present a great opportunity to discuss absences with people and to make sure they are accountable.



Put together an absence management system – It is a fact that 140 million working days each year are lost to employees taking sick days off. The main cause for this is illnesses and then muscular skeletal conditions are the second most common. This is exactly why your business needs an effective absence management system, so that these days can be limited and decreased as much as possible.


The main aim of employee absence management is to focus on the employee’s health early on, such as having interventions so that the illness can be dealt with prior to it having a negative effect on their work. This will ensure that the condition is not only improved, but hopefully heals it completely. This process will 100% reduce your staffs absence. There are also absence management companies that offer excellent return to work programs.


These usually are designed to help ill employees return to work safely, so that they can get back to their duties and proceed with helping the business grow. This process is especially excellent for employees who have been absent for sometime, and feel that they have tried every way possible to get better, but their health hasn’t improved. They will have the option to take part in not only psychological therapy but also physiotherapy.


These will include both an assessment of the employees current health and the their work based duties. If the program is a positive one, it will help everyone involved including the employers, focus on what the employee is able to do, rather than what they cannot. This will help them return to work in a timely matter.


What you need is an absence management program that is innovative. It should offer a service that is immediate when it comes to reducing staff absence costs, while also maximising staff attendance. This should be done with telephone triage, functional assessments and aiming to hep the employees for the long term as much as possible. For instance, a telephone triage is so important when it comes to sickness absence management, as it is designed to offer support to people who suffer from conditions.


On the other end of the phone line, there should be an employment assessment made available and carried out by an experienced physiotherapist. The option of sending the employee to a relevant healthcare professional should also be there, as this is how they will go on to actually be treated.  A telephone triage makes everything easier during the process, and saves employers a lot of time.


A functional assessment is also very important, as this is what will test the person’s sustainability and overall ability to perform their work tasks. This is also useful in pre-employment screening, as you will then be able to tell if an applicant is suitable for the position that you are looking to hire for. The assessment will also give you a chance to look at their past medical history, which is valuable information, especially depending on the type of work that will need to carried out.


Communication – It is imperative to communicate with the absent staff member from the beginning of their non-attendance. This increases employee engagement and creates trust between the absent employee and the team manager. By enquiring about their absence from the offset you appear concerned about their wellbeing, just as much as the impact it is going to have on the workplace.


Therefore, the employee will be more inclined to keep you updated on when they are likely to be back in work. They may even be willing to help from home. However, if you don’t do this, you risk alienating the absentee by showing little concern for them on a personal level. Moreover, this could come back to haunt you if the absence reaches a more serious stage, such as a tribunal.


Interventions – In some instances it may be necessary to intervene. However, you need to have a clear process in place for this. You shouldn’t simply randomly stage an intervention. Instead, you should identify trigger points that signify the need for one; these can be clinical or managerial.  You will also need to ensure they are clearly auditable. Nevertheless, clinical intervention should only be staged for long-term absences. Approximately eight in ten absences occur for less than seven days, and thus to stage a clinical intervention would be costly and more importantly ineffective.


Implement an injury prevention program – Injury prevention and management programs are a must for all businesses. After all, there is nothing that hurts productivity levels as much as excessive employee absences. By having an effective illness prevention plan in place, you can boost overall attendance, which in turn will benefit your business in other ways. Of course, it is impossible to eradicate staff absences altogether. Nevertheless, there may be certain issues that are contributing to your level of absences.


The working environment could be one that is causing stress, which is one of the biggest factors contributing to injuries and illnesses. You should therefore assess everything from manual handling practice, to display screen equipment, to ergonomic assessments of individual workstations, to looking at the workplace on the whole. Perhaps your office chairs are having a bad impact on posture? Maybe your manual handling practices are causing more harm than you realise? It is important to promote high levels of corporate wellness if you are to reduce the number of staff absences.


You may also want to take a look at the way you deal with illnesses in the workplace. Do you, for example, have a corporate doctor? Maybe you provide healthcare as one of the benefits offered to your employees? Things like this will ensure that illnesses are prevented while also guaranteeing that any injuries are dealt with quickly and effectively so that they do not get any worse.


Understanding what your employees are going through is imperative. By enforcing an injury prevention and management program, there are many benefits your business can experience. Of course, you will notice that the number of absences in your business reduces. However, the knock-on benefits of this are increased productivity levels and reduced expenditure. You can lower the costs that are associated with cover staff requirements, sick pay, compensation claims, and such like.


System – Last but not least, you need to make sure you have an effective system implemented so you can assess and collect data. Your system should allow you to view compliances with the policy, attendance cases, and of course absences, in real time. Moreover, you must capture every piece of data as well. If you don’t do this, you are putting yourself in an extremely difficult position if it comes to the point where an absence related tribunal takes place.  Storing the data properly is pivotal as well, as you need to ensure there are no data protection breaches.

If you follow the points that have been mentioned, you will be much more capable of managing unexpected absences at your company.



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