A business cannot run without an absence management policy. You need to clearly define and communicate where you stand with things like leave entitlement and sick pay, and whether that is enhanced or limited to Statutory Sick Pay.

These are the basics. The essentials. Every business needs an absence policy.

But has your business got an absence management policy?

What is an Absence Management Policy?

Employee absences are inevitable. People will get sick, people will have dentist appointments, and people will have to take time off work to deal with issues at home. The employee who never misses a single day’s work throughout their entire career just doesn’t exist. People will miss work from time to time. It just happens.

But with an absence management policy, you can minimise the impact that unplanned absences have on your company. You might even be able to greatly reduce instances of unplanned absences while helping all of your employees to find genuine fulfilment in their roles.

Why Do You Need an Absence Policy?

Well, what sort of business doesn’t want fewer unplanned absences and more satisfied employees?

But to put things in a greater perspective, let’s take a look at the numbers on the business cost of employee absence.

The CIPD recently released their latest health and wellbeing at work report. In 2018, companies lost an average of 6.6 days per employee due to unplanned absence. In the public sector the average is even higher, at 8.5 days per employee.

Every day lost to unplanned absence is going to cost you, and these costs are going to add up. In fact, it’s estimated that unplanned absences cost UK employers nearly £30 billion a year.

Unplanned absences can result in more problems than you might initially expect.

A single lost day can have a potentially-devastating snowball effect. You could miss a shipment, or a deadline. This could lead to a strained relationship with your client, or you could even lose their business completely. So you might ask the rest of the team to take on more work to make up for the shortfall. This could result in no end of stress and anxiety – not to mention resentment.

Don’t Forget About Planned Absence!

Unplanned absence is only one side of the coin. You also need to get to grips with planned absence in your organisation.

Too many employees fear the resentment they could cause if they take any leave. They don’t like the idea of creating more work for their colleagues. This can lead to two unhealthy patterns of behaviour – presenteeism and leaveism.

Both involve employees working at times when they shouldn’t. That could be showing up to work when they’re in no fit state to work, or even using their planned leave to catch up with demanding projects.

Presenteeism and leaveism are toxic. And unfortunately, both appear to be on the rise.

If your company culture has created a situation whereby employees are reluctant to ever take any time off, something needs to change. Otherwise, you can expect high levels of stress, low levels of job satisfaction, and a higher job turnover. People don’t like to work for employers who don’t appear to care about their essential needs…

This is why you need an absence management policy. You need to make it easy for employees to take the leave they need to take, when they need to take it. You also need to ensure that everything can continue to run smoothly should any member of the team ever need to take some unplanned leave.

Finally, with an absence management policy, you can minimise the impact that unplanned absences have on your company while at the same time championing employee wellbeing.

What Does an Absence Policy Look Like?

At the root of your absence management policy should be a commitment to promoting a culture of wellbeing.

You need to champion a good work/life balance. Yes, you want your employees to work hard, but only when they’re on the clock. You should make it clear that work needs to stop the second the clock hits five – or whenever you finish. Of course, certain projects might require longer hours, but this should be the exception, and it should be rewarded in kind with TOIL or overtime pay.

Don’t make your employees feel like you expect them to put in extra hours, and never make them feel guilty for wanting to leave on time. Never call or email your employees out of work hours, and make it clear that you don’t expect anyone to check their emails outside of work hours.

Go for an open-door policy. People should feel like they can talk to you, openly and confidentially, if there’s ever anything on their minds. They might be worried about their workload, or they might be preoccupied with a situation at home. If they can talk to you, you might be able to help before their issues become truly problematic.

All of these measures will make your employees feel valued and listened to. They’ll feel like they have control over their work and their lives, which can really help to combat on-the-job stress.

But when it comes to wellbeing in the workplace, this is just the tip of the iceberg. A comprehensive employee wellbeing policy might involve much more, including measures designed to help your employees eat healthy and stay active.

For some great ideas about how this might work, take a look at how some of the world’s most successful companies manage workplace wellbeing.

How to Create an Absence Management Policy

  1. Processes & Workflow – Employees need to know what the process is for requesting leave, and for reporting an unplanned absence. You also need to make it clear who’s responsible for recording unplanned absences, and who’s responsible for monitoring and reporting on absence stats. You need to set trigger points for each employee, and if they’re met, you need a process for intervening.
  2. Monitoring and Reports – The more you know about the reasons behind unplanned absences, the more you can reduce the likelihood of them happening in the future. You need to keep on top of your absence data. This can help you to spot patterns – such as the months when employees are most likely to call in sick – which could help you to identify strategies for making sick days less likely.
  3. Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) – Mental ill health appears to be a growing problem for UK employers. As part of your open-door policy, you need to ensure you have people on hand who are trained to help employees with matters that you might not be qualified to handle yourself. These can include stress, depression, anxiety, financial problems, and both internal and external relationships. Investing in EAP will prove to your employees that you care about their needs, and it may help prevent many instances of unplanned absence.
  4. Return to Work Interviews – Make it clear that you’ll conduct return to work interviews whenever any employee returns from a period of unplanned absence. But this isn’t an interrogation. You’re not testing their loyalty and looking for holes in their story. You’re offering empathy, and looking for ways that you can help. If you can uncover a root cause of an absence, perhaps whatever issues they may be facing can be handled before they result in more missed work.

We Make Absence Management Policies Easy

Thousands of companies across the world depend on our advanced absence management system. Through empowering you to take control of your absenteeism, we could save you £289 per employee per year.

With e-days absence management and leave tracking, almost everything we’ve talked about in this guide is streamlined, simplified and automated.

We make it easy for employees to keep on top of their entitlement, to book leave, and to report unplanned leave. We make it easy for you to track workloads, to set trigger points, and to get the clearest possible overview of your absence data.

Our system is a shortcut to reduced absenteeism and improved levels of employee satisfaction.

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