Absence Management

Practical advice and support backed up by years of experience.

Absence Management

Staff absence in all its forms can have a real impact

Absence can affect your business performance, customer service and staff morale.

It can also increase the stress for you, especially if you feel out of your depth or are worried about handling a case with sensitivity and fairness.

Solutions for HR understand how difficult these cases can be.

We can design and deliver an absence management strategy by introducing processes and initiatives and specialist services such as GP and Occupational Health support, where necessary, to ensure that absence rates are lowered and that when employees are off work they are treated firmly but fairly, with the aim of getting them back to work as soon as possible.

We help you proactively manage all absence issues right up to the most complex cases so you avoid potential pitfalls and gain peace of mind for all concerned.

Worried about managing absence issues? click absence and capability management case study to read how we helped.

Absence management best practice

Excessive absenteeism is costly to your business, both in terms of sick pay and lost output.

The control of absence is extremely important and we have set out the following steps to help minimise absenteeism.

a. Absence notification

Ensure all employees are familiar with and observe the rules and procedures relating to the notification of absence.

One of the most important parts of notification is having a designated call-in time and person to speak to.

Personally justifying absence each day will help to limit non-genuine absence.

If an employee fails to comply with your rules on absence notification then they can be disciplined for this.

b. Certification of absence

Ensure all employees are familiar with and observe the rules and procedures relating to the certification of absence.

“Sick notes” have been replaced by “fit notes”.

These notes have two options.

The first is that the employee is unfit for work.

This is straightforward and it works in exactly the same way as the old sick note.

The second is that they “may be fit for work if…”.

With this one the GP has four tick boxes to suggest possible workplace adjustments.

If you receive a fit note with a recommendation, make sure that you investigate its possibility thoroughly.

Remember that if the condition or illness could amount to a disability you have a duty to consider reasonable adjustments.

c. Return-to-work interviews

Should be used following each instance of absence from work.

They provide a dialogue with staff over absence at an early stage.

Return to work interviews can also deter non-genuine absence as employees are less likely to take unnecessary time off if they have to explain the absence on their return.

d. Absence monitoring

Look for patterns, either for individuals or for different segments of your workforce.

You can use your previous stats to decide the level that is unacceptable and set “triggers”.

Trigger points are used to highlight levels or patterns of sickness absence that require further attention.

d. Taking action

Each attendance situation is different and will require a different approach.

This may be a capability procedure for long term and genuine absence issues or disciplinary procedure for either non-genuine absence or for significant occasions of varied and unlinked absence e.g. cough, cold, toothache, tummy upset.

You should be aware that employees with poor attendance records may be protected by disability discrimination, and there is no qualifying service to make such a claim.

Medical evidence is always key in most cases.

Especially in long term absence cases, it is appropriate to seek medical advice from the employee’s GP or an occupational health professional to ascertain whether there is any action which could assist in improving an individual’s attendance.

Where a medical report indicates that a return cannot yet be predicted or there are no reasonable adjustments to consider, a date for review will be agreed at which stage you may need to obtain further consent for a further medical report or assessment to be received.

Where reasonable adjustments are recommended and can be accommodated, for example modifications to the role, alternative employment or a phased return to work, an agreement will be reached and a review date set.

Where there is no likelihood of a return to work, all alternatives have been considered fully and every assistance which is reasonably practicable has been offered to the employee, consideration can be given to termination of employment.

You might also be interested in our blog post Managing long term sickness absence and incapacity for work

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