Keeping on top of absence management

How can I control absence in my organisation

What is absence?

Absence is time away from work. This sounds simple, but in reality it needs to be broken down further if you are to develop an effective strategy to keep it under control.

So lets try and define absence and determine its impact. Absence can be split into two categories, directly controllable absence and absences which are bound by external influence.

Absence which you directly control

Directly controllable absences include annual leave, where you determine the number of days or hours in the year that an employee will be absent and you control and authorise the time that they will not be present.

Directly controllable absence may still have variables that are outwith your control, for example you may have a policy which allocates additional annual leave days as a reward for length of service. The total annual leave for your organisation will then be dependant on staff turnover which is not under your direct influence.

It goes without saying that if this type of absence is not monitored effectively, then it is not considered controllable and will be open to abuse or error and may leave your organisation exposed to unnecessary risk.

As long as you have the correct management tools in place and have procedures in place to effectively record and authorise then managing these absences should present no problems at all.

Externally influenced absence

Externally influenced absence is much more common and is likely to have a much higher impact on your staffing. This type of absence includes sickness, maternity and compassionate leave.

Some of these types of absence, such as sickness, will show seasonal trends whilst others will clearly be more difficult to predict.

Even if the probability of an absence occurring can be difficult to predict, the impact of that absence can be more accurately predicted by analysis of historical data.

Some degree of control can be exerted on sickness absence by use of an effective strategy along with a clear set of policy and procedures, which should be diligently followed.

How does absence impact on my business?

One of the first questions raised is how much does absence impact on your business and to determine the significance of that impact.

The most obvious impact is one of cost, but there are also indirect issues such as staff morale. Some staff may feel aggrieved at having to constantly cover for frequently absent colleagues whist others may feel that they are being treated unfairly by effectively penalised for having a good record of attendance without recognition.

Clearly, the nature of your business will impact on your absence management strategy. Absence will be more visible for a company whose employees are all located in the one building compared to a company with staff distributed over many locations or in the field. Smaller teams will feel the impact of absence far greater than larger groups.

Your strategy for absence management

You will have to develop a strategy for controlling absence and reducing the impact on your business.

To enable an effective execution of your strategy, you will need management tools so you can monitor absence, apply policies and procedures with confidence and check the effectiveness of your strategy by using metrics to monitor trends.

Your strategy for controlling sick leave

Sickness absence is the one area that is going to impact on most organisations more than any other absence type.

This will require a strategy all of its own and will need some reflection on your organisation culture. What type of employer are you and how do you view your staff. How does your staff view sick leave and how do they view you as an employer. There are many factors that will determine your strategy. Do you need to reduce your sickness rates or simply maintain the current level. What is the breakdown of sickness between short term and long term sickness absence.

When developing a strategy, do you want to control sickness through punitive measures which make it unattractive for staff to be absent or would you prefer to control absence through value and reward. Some staff see sickness absence as a right and an extension of annual leave whilst others take pride in an exemplary attendance record. Some staff who may have gone for years without a sickness absence may, through no fault of there own, require time off due to illness and may resent punitive action, seeing it as being punished for the actions of others. Other staff may feel that taking a sick day is necessary even though they are not sick, perhaps to cover an emergency and if they feel that their employer will not be flexible is granting a shift swap or short notice annual leave day. In reality, a balanced strategy will be required, where it becomes difficult for staff to abuse the policy, but leaves genuine staff feeling valued.

Analyse existing sickness within your organisation and consider alternatives that will discourage staff from automatically taking sick leave. Is your organisation too inflexible, do you leave your staff with little alternative but to call in sick. Flexible working, shift swapping, flexible annual leave and emergency days may be considered. A punitive approach to sickness may make staff feel devalued, leading to a higher staff turnover and possible recruitment problems if you organisation earns a reputation of being a poor employer. A more positive and pro-active approach to staff management will help with staff retention and should lead to increased productivity. Think beyond direct costs.

Use triggers and call in staff, who have frequent periods of short term sick or who display patterns within their absence record, for a discussion. This will let your staff group know that monitoring is in place and that you do prioritise absence management. This should be enough for staff to think twice about taking unnecessary days off and should lead to reduced absence.

Absence management is in your hands

Effective absence management may sound daunting but by implementing some simple procedures into you organisation can be easily achieved.

The impact of effective absence management can be high, just as the reverse is true.

If the correct strategy is put in place, the rewards will no only be cost driven, but your employees may feel more empowered and that can only bring its own benefits

InfoEase employee time tracking software

InfoEase provides employee time tracking software which can be used as a management tool to help with absence recording, triggering and analysis.

The software is cloud based which means that it is instantly accessible, can be used on most devices and available to use wherever there is an internet connection. The software is accessed using a web browser or through the optional Android™ App.

You can trial the software using the InfoEase Demo.

InfoEase Demo »

Article written by

Alan Pratt

Alan Pratt (InfoEase Ltd)

InfoEase Ltd

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