A recent report released by the Group Risk Development (GRiD) revealed that 23% of employers still don’t record, monitor or manage sickness absence with their organization. Let’s just think about that – almost a quarter of companies surveyed have no idea where their employees are when they aren’t in the office!

These statistics are worrying for many reasons. Firstly, an employee disciplined for misbehavior around the time of their absence may suggest that any disciplinary action is retaliation for their being absent. If you have no record of your employee’s absence and no record of any conversations that took place it’s your word against theirs in court, which let’s face it, is not ideal!

Secondly, it’s difficult to know which employees are absent, and how long they are absent for, putting extra pressure on you. This information is required to ensure you have access to the temporary staff necessary to fill the void. Not to mention the extra pressure put on other team members to pick up the slack. Productivity levels are likely to suffer due to this additional pressure, and customer service is also susceptible to suffering from overstressed staff and a lack of resources.

Of the employers who record employees leaves of absence, 25% of companies say that their absence has improved over the past 12 months. This statistic in itself suggests that managing leaves of absence can either deter employees from calling in sick when necessary or reduce the duration of leaves of absence.

Only 10% of employers reported that their absence had worsened over the past twelve months. One key point to consider, however: if these companies had not previously been managing absence you would expect that absence rates would get worse. But the actual reporting of these absences may have improved. It would be important to review these figures for two years post managing absence to see the long-term effects.

One way to improve absence management is to provide a time and attendance policy across the company, outlining the following:

  • Who should an employee call?
  • How long before a shift does an employee need to call?
  • What details should be specified: the reason for the absence? When do they expect to return?
  • When should they make contact again if their illness persists?
  • After what period is a medical certificate required?
  • How are employee absences recorded and monitored? And by whom?
  • What are the consequences for not following the time and attendance policy, including disciplinary action?

Employers also need to go a step further and learn to manage absence. If an employee is persistently sick, perhaps they have a personal problem that needs further investigation. Engaging in an interactive process with an employee can determine any underlying issues so you can help them to return to work more quickly.

In the US, employers need to go a step further to determine if an employee’s reason for absence is FMLA-qualifying. Or perhaps they need an accommodation to help them stay at work or to return them to work earlier.