Absence management guidance provided by Helen Straw, the founder and managing director of Yorkshire based HR consultancy, The Personnel Partnership.
1. Have an absence management policy in place
It may seem obvious, but this helps in many ways. From ensuring employees know who to call when they’re off work ill, to clarifying the rules around self-certification and sick pay – you can also include absence management tools such as trigger points (see below) and how return to work discussions work in your policy.
2. Use trigger points
Trigger points are fairly self-explanatory; they ‘trigger’ an action when a specific level of absence or a pattern of absence occurs. The first trigger is usually a meeting to discuss the employee’s absence, and presenting them with simple information in a visual, graphical format will encourage employees to make a sustained effort to improve absence levels.
3. Conduct a return to work discussion
Return to work discussions are great for your absence management ’toolkit’ and should happen after every period of absence, regardless of the length of time the employee was off work. Return to work discussions allow you to ascertain whether there is anything contributing to the employee’s absence in a one-to-one situation, find out the specific details of their illness and generate discussion about any support they may need going forward.
4. Measure, monitor and manage
Do you know your sickness absence rates? If you can’t measure them, you can’t manage them. Monitor your sickness and absence levels at least quarterly and act on any increases immediately. Consider developing an absence KPI so that absence statistics are regularly reviewed within an existing framework.
5. Involve your managers
It is vital that all managers are actively involved in the absence management process. They must be at the forefront of every discussion – including the return to work discussion – and have direct access to the absence statistics of their team members.
Managers know their employees; they work with them every day. They may be aware of personal issues that are contributing to their absence, if the absence is genuine or not, and will have already established a good rapport with them which will help the flow of information and enhance effective two way communication.