Published on 7th September 2017 by Gemma Harding
It’s easy to see staff sickness as an individual’s problem.
But doing so serves to hide the root causes of absenteeism – and to mask its true scale and the cost to your organisation.
We all know that days off due to sickness and injury can create problems with meeting deadlines and schedules, maintaining morale, delivering high levels of service and maintaining productivity.
Yet the latest Office of National Statistics figures tell us that on average in 2016 there were just 4.3 days lost per worker due to sickness or injury in the UK.
It goes on to point out that this is the lowest recorded figure since its records began in 1993, when it was at 7.2 days.
But when you scale this four days a year up across the country, it means a staggering 137.3 million working days were lost. And certain organisations and demographics are responsible for significantly higher levels. These include:
- Older workers
- Those with long-term health conditions and smokers
- Workers in Wales and Scotland
- Public-sector workers and those working in the largest organisations (those with 500 or more employees)
If you translate this into the cost to UK business, the results are alarming. Personnel Today reports that one of the largest recent surveys extrapolated that the cost to employers is an average of £16 billion each year. While the latest figures may be slightly lower than this, the cost is still high enough to make us all pause for thought.
So what can you do about it?
How to effectively address employee absences
1. Gather hard data
Absenteeism is not just about individuals: it’s about how unplanned leave affects your organisation as a whole. You need to know the scale of the problem and be able to identify if there are organisational issues that affect it.
- Look for patterns in terms of timings or groupings of absence
- Identify when increases occurred and review other organisational changes at the time
- Are there types of workers particularly prone to absence or departments particularly affected?
2. Start reviewing cultures rather than people
Wilmar Scaufeli pinpoints in the Journal of Organisational Behaviour that increases in job demands directly influence absenteeism. He also notes that decreases in job resources, such as feedback and learning opportunities, are causally related.
Particularly where stress at work, or at home, has led to absences, implementing flexible working (such as unpaid leave, different hours and days working from home) can help.
- Encourage your management team to review working practices and introduce training and support where required
- Consider a more flexible approach to working patterns
3. Develop a clear absenteeism policy
It’s important to be clear about exactly what is acceptable and what support is on offer.
- Detail how many absences are acceptable in a given period of time
- Document acceptable reasons for absence
- Describe the support offered to help address increases in absences
- Delineate consequences for violating the policy
4. Address issues at an individual level
While absenteeism is not all about the individual, it must also be addressed at this level.
- Meet with the employee and discuss possible solutions
- Offer support, training and flexibility if required
- Document every meeting in writing
- If things still do not improve, issue a verbal warning and ensure this is also documented
- Any written warning issued should be signed by the employee and placed in their personnel file
5. Start thinking creatively
Thinking outside the box opens up a whole new world of potential solutions.
Outsourcing can often relieve the strain on your staff. At Call Care we offer intelligent outsourcing that helps businesses maintain productivity without the stress.
Get in touch today to find out more on what we can do to help you reduce staff absences, including our industry-leading virtual receptionist service.