Sickness absence is an inevitable consequence of the workforce; we all get sick from time to time and employers should have strategies in place to deal with all different types of absence.
There is a tendency to view all sickness absence as the same, but each absence turns on its own merits and multiple factors need to be considered. For example there will be times when staff suffer from serious and legitimate sickness such as the flu, or perhaps short term sickness such as migraines; although the durations are different the sickness is legitimate.
However there may be times when sickness absence is used as a tool to take time off and the sickness is not legitimate. Sporadic absence can be a difficult and complex matter to manage and having accurate records of such absence is critical to fast management of the issues.
Other types of absence could be invisible illness such as stress related absence due to mental health reasons. It is important to recognise that absenteeism is made up of all different types of factors and appropriate strategies should be developed to meet the individual. For example, if an employee is often absent on a Monday, this could be an indication of work-related stress and an underlying issue may be in play.
Any absence should be followed up with a return to work interview; not only does this promote accountability but also discourages dishonestly due to its formality. It will also assist with accurate recording and capturing of all relevant information. Managing absence should not be a punitive approach but a holistic one, to ensure that all facts are known and an appropriate strategy followed.
Traditionally, the first Monday of February, according to statistics, is the day with the most sickness absence of the year. It is estimated up to 350,000 would call in sick on the first Monday in February.
Latest statistics show that this trend is shifting as increased rates of sickness absence are now being reported in November , December and peaking in January. Another interesting statistic shows that absence rates on a Monday are almost double the rates of a Friday.
Looking at trends is very important when deciding whether sickness absence is likely to be legitimate or not. Analysis of sickness absence data is a good way at looking for patterns and whether the absence is more aligned to a lifestyle choice rather than genuine sickness. If you have an employee who always takes Friday afternoon off as sickness and this pattern emerges over time, it is likely there is an underlying cause not sickness related.
HR software is a great tool that automatically analyse absence and will give you a birds-eye view of absence across a 12 month period or longer. The way the data is usually presented means any trends that could indicate an issue related to absence can be picked up quickly and dealt with before the matter escalates.
Investing in such a system will undoubtedly save employers time and money in the long run. Competently managing a complex sickness management strategy is time and resource consuming. Another aspect is accuracy of recording as manual record keeping can be low accuracy and subject to dispute, whereas if absence is recorded in a system the accuracy and formality may act as a deterrent to any non-genuine sickness absence.
We have partnered with a platform Breathe that offers a way to accurately view any absenteeism over a specific period. Employees will also be able to report absence through the system and so each absence can be calculated against the well known Bradford Factor.