Employee absence, be it planned or otherwise, can have a significant effect on productivity, professionalism and morale in the workplace. Not only does it place additional responsibility and stress on colleagues and co-workers, it directly costs your company. Time, as the phrase goes, is money; frequent malingering and unauthorised leave weakens a workforce and halts efficiency. Fortunately, the overall impact of absenteeism can be mitigated via the implementation of effective HR management systems.
Of course, absences are, in one form or another, unavoidable. Unforeseen circumstances, legitimate illness and personal emergencies should be approached with empathy, professionalism and supportiveness. In order to do so, however, appropriate policies and methods of attendance monitoring must be implemented.
All of the above falls within the category of absence management. In the following article, we’ll explore what this means and why it is important within a professional environment.
What Is Meant By Absence Management?
As implied, absence management refers to a set of policies, procedures and support systems designed to lessen the impact of leave in the workplace whilst facilitating employee wellbeing. In order to deliver effective absence management solutions within a working environment, companies should ensure that clear communication is maintained at all times; ensuring that employees are aware of their rights, as well as company policies, is essential. We’ll explore this in further detail shortly, but it is worth noting that absence management processes can dramatically reduce instances of lateness, extended breaks, unauthorised leave and malingering.
Why Does Absence Management Matter?
As touched upon above, extended absences, repeated lateness and unauthorised leave can have numerous detrimental effects on a company, in terms of cost, efficiency and wellbeing. When an individual is away from work for an extended period, their responsibilities often fall on colleagues and managers. Not only does this slow workrates, but it also heightens stress, leading to burnout and further employee absence. With instances of sickness in the UK labour market at their highest in almost 20 years and an estimated cost of almost £600 per employee per year, ensuring a robust absence management system is in place has never been so important.
It should go without saying that proper absence management procedures exist for the benefit of employees, as well as the businesses. An awareness of an individual’s wellbeing allows employers to offer appropriate support when necessary.
What Does Absence Management Involve?
Effective absence management exists and an amalgamation of actionable policies and procedures. Central to this is an expertly drafted absence management document, outlining the expectations of employer and employee if an individual requires time off work. Typically, an absence management policy will include information regarding:
- Absence monitoring
- Short and long-term sickness leave
- Notes for sickness
- Tracking and reporting absences
- Sick pay
- Return to work procedures and interviews
- Reasonable adjustments, flexibility and phased return to work
- Information regarding Employee Assistance Programme (where applicable)
Examples Of Absence
To effectively deal with absence in the workplace, it is important to understand the difference between planned, legitimate and unauthorised leave. Once the form of absence is understood, appropriate procedures can be identified and followed.
Planned work absences, as the name suggests, are periods of leave that have been approved in advance. Typical examples include annual leave, maternity/paternity leave, care for dependents, compassionate leave or leave for the purposes of education. Usually, planned absences will be authorised by an employee’s line manager or HR representative. The appropriate procedures for dealing with planned absences, such as booking annual leave, should be stated clearly within the employment contract.
Periods of legitimate unplanned absence include unforeseen circumstances such as illness, injury or family emergencies. It is worth noting that a primary purpose of absence management is to distinguish those instances of unplanned but legitimate absence from unauthorised leave, as discussed below. If an employee’s period of sick leave extends beyond the 7 days they are legally entitled to, a note from a GP or similar should be required. Following this, an assessment must be made regarding an employee’s capability. If the reasonable adjustments to the individual’s working environment and patterns are insufficient, dismissal may be considered. Crucially, an effective absence management policy will ensure that correct procedures are followed throughout this period, protecting employers from costly legal claims.
Finally, unauthorised absences are periods of leave taken without any kind of legitimate reason or permission. Examples of unauthorised absence include frequent lateness, fake or exaggerated illness or injury and malingering. Without absence management policies and procedures in place, it can be difficult for employers to spot or find evidence of unauthorised absence, especially in larger companies.
Effective Absence Management
Effective absence management is much more than logging sick days and approving annual leave. It is designed to help staff with health issues to stay in, or return to, work, whilst identifying instances of malingering and unauthorised time off. Implemented correctly, absence management policies save companies a great deal of trouble, not to mention money.
Central to effective absence management is strong communication. Developing clearly articulated policies from the get-go will prevent misunderstandings and ensure that employer and employees are on the same page regarding correct practice. Moreover, it is important to maintain communication between employees and HR professionals during times of absence. This helps employers to prepare for an individual’s return to work as well as any reasonable adjustments that should be made.
Here at The HR Dept, our absence management services are designed to minimise the impact of sickness, unplanned leave or malingering on your business and employees. From the integration of easy-to-use attendance monitoring systems to the development of reasonable adjustments and, when required, dismissals, our expert team are here to help.