Four step plan to cutting staff sick days

How to introduce an absence management policy

Small businesses are being advised to adopt some of the management policies of larger companies to deal with the increase in staff absences.

As reporting on, the level of workplace absences rose for the first time in five years in 2003 at a cost to UK businesses of £11.6 billion.

The average employee now takes off 7.2 sick days a year but small businesses aren’t doing enough to ensure this absence is checked and effectively managed, according to a leading firm of solicitors.

Brooke North Solicitors believes more small businesses should be introducing absence management policies, a regular practise in large companies.

Sara Morgan, employment law partner at Brook North, said: “Employers naturally regard staff absences as a cause of nuisance and aggravation. Equally a minority of employees are quite blatant and assume a certain amount of sick leave is their entitlement, almost a form of extra holiday.

“Only by putting in place systems that allow employers to monitor and manage the process can companies ensure that they are equipped to deal with staff absences and the long-term consequences.”

To help small businesses implement such procedures, Brooke North has set out a four-point plan to getting an absence management policy.

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Step 1: Monitor Absences It’s surprising just how much time some employees take off; it seems like the odd day here and there but over the months it builds up. Keep an accurate record of when individuals are away and why.

Step 2: Measuring AbsencesIt is generally more disruptive for an employee to be away for say five isolated days than for a full week. Brooke North says companies should use a method such as the Bradford Points System to assess the frequency of absences. This highlights repeated short absences by giving extra weight to the number of occasions of absence. For example the employee who is absent for five separate days will score 125 points whereas the person away for a week just five points.

Step 3: Return to Work Interviews Require all employees to attend a return to work interview after any period of absence other than pre-arranged holiday. Use this to ascertain the reasons for absence, confirm the person is fit to return and if appropriate identify means to avoid further absences. Keep records of these of interviews for future reference.

Employees who have genuine reasons for absence will see this process as positive whereas those who are swinging the lead will know they have to explain themselves.

Step 4: Penalties and Rewards Decide what is a realistic level of absence. Very few employees will achieve 100 per cent attendance and managers should ask whether they really want someone who has got flu in the office infecting everyone else?

A Bradford Points total of 125 or above in any 12 month period is probably a good benchmark. In the absence of legitimate reasons discipline employees who exceed the threshold and consider rewarding those whose attendance is well above average.


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