Whether above-average use of sick leave is health-related or due to a pattern of abuse, a company can actively reduce absenteeism through careful management. Employee wellness programmes can promote better health and management of chronic conditions, and also limit the dubious one-off absences that may have nothing to do with sickness. In the UK, it’s reported that there are over 130 million days of sickness absence each year which is thought to cost the economy £100 billion annually.
Keeping tabs on sick leave
A Human Resources Management System (HRMS) can make information about absences available to managers, so it’s easier to identify possible patterns of abuse and address them with employees. Absenteeism is also an area where improvements in employee engagement can reduce company expenses. It estimated that up to two thirds of unscheduled absences were for other reasons, such as family issues, personal needs, entitlement mentality, and work-related stress.
Organisations with low morale or low engagement are more likely to experience higher unscheduled absence rates (2.7%) than those with high morale or high levels of engagement (2%). Higher levels of engagement help mitigate the effects of stress.
Benefits of wellness programmes
The government recently announced the Health and Work Service, which aims to support employees dealing with health problems by providing non-compulsory health assessments, occupational health facilities and possible free training if the employer is no longer fit for their role.
It’s designed to pave the way for employees to return to work as soon as possible, rather than leaving them to become a long-term health statistic. Wellness programmes have definite benefits, if they are implemented in an organisation.
Keep information up to date
To fight against a pattern of sick leave abuse, you’ll need the right information, supplied to both managers and employees. To start with, employers need to have a clear absence policy that is readily accessible to all employees, along with the employee handbook. Going through absence rules and processes should be part of the induction process. Technology can be very helpful in this area:In order to confidently talk to or discipline employees who have attendance problems, it is not enough to have a clearly written policy.
Managers also need information that proves possible abuse or above normal patterns of sick leave. Sick leave statistics are needed at the individual employee level and the departmental or company level. Here again, an HRMS solution can identify patterns of abuse and also help report absenteeism results to employees and their managers.
On a positive note, the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics shows that the average number of days lost to sickness absence has dropped down to nearly 40 per cent since 1993. This shows that employers are getting better at managing sickness absence and staff are a lot less inclined to take a ‘sickie’.
However, the employer must also take responsibility for the welfare of their workers. Encourage a good work-life balance and don’t expect staff to regularly work late under stressful conditions as you don’t want them to suffer from burnout.A happy workforce is generally a healthy workforce, so looking after employees and their welfare is a sure fire way of keeping sickness absences down to a minimum.
Adopting a solid, clear policy that is properly communicated to staff should help you all avoid unnecessary days lost to ill-health, and support anyone in need of guidance when dealing with people suffering from accidents and illnesses.