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How to Manage Sickness Absence

In 2021/2022, UK businesses lost 30.8 million working days to sickness absence which is an average of 16.5 days of sickness per employee per year.

Put that into real terms for your business. If the average employee works 7.5 hours a day and is paid £10.42 per hour, that's a cost of £1289.48 per employee, per year! And that's before you have considered the cost of lost productivity, lowered morale and hiring replacement staff to cover.

So not only is absence a massive inconvenience, particularly for smaller teams, it's also a HUGE cost to a business that most of us could do without.

Sickness absence

What can I do about it?

We can't prevent staff from going off sick, and nor should we. Making staff come to work when they are ill can be just as detrimental to your business. It can lead to more staff catching their lurgies, accidents at work and more sickness absence in the long run!

The good news is, you ARE allowed to manage your staff and their absence levels! In fact, I highly encourage it from a commercial standpoint and from an employee well-being perspective.

Step 1 - Record Absence Information

You cannot effectively manage absence without knowing the number of absences an employee has had, the total number of days they have been absent and the reason for each absence.

We recommend using a system such as Breathe HR (insert affiliate link) to help you track and monitor sickness absence levels in your business.

Step 2 - Return to Work Interviews

After each period of absence, you should meet with your employee on the first day of work so that you can

  1. check in with how they are

  2. ensure they are fit to be at work

  3. make any necessary adjustments to their work to support them.

REMEMBER: write it down! If it's not written down, it didn't happen!!

Step 3 - Have a Set Procedure

You need to decide how much sickness absence you are going to tolerate in your business, taking into account the fact that people do, through no fault of their own, get sick or injured.

We recommend deciding on a trigger point such as 3 absences in a rolling 12 months for example. This helps you to consistently identify employees who are having high levels of absence and manage them accordingly.

When an employee reaches your trigger point, you should have an informal chat with them to:

  • determine if there is a pattern to their absences

  • understand if there is an underlying medical condition you need to be aware of which might contribute to future sickness absence

  • offer support to improve absences.

Each time the employee reaches the trigger point, you escalate up the process:

  • Informal chat

  • Stage 1 meeting - potentially issue written warning

  • Stage 2 meeting - potentially issue final written warning

  • Stage 3 meeting - potentially dismiss.

The key thing to remember when dealing with absences is that you are not expected to diagnose the employee, nor is it your job to decide if the absences are genuine. It is your job to ask questions that will help you support the employee to remain at work as much as possible.

And, if you get stuck or want some support, you know a very friendly HR team here at Lilac HR.

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