Lost production, reduced Customer services and more stress on overstretched workforces makes proactive attendance management an integral part of effective HR policies. Absence costs business and industry an average of £13 billion annually.
171 million working days is lost to non-attendance each year. On average each member of staff takes 11.9 days off sick at a cost of £43 per day per employee, according to CBI figures.
There are many issues that need to be considered when we talk about Attendance Management. In the past discussion has been hampered by some unhelpful myths eg:
“Absence from work is uncontrollable and unpredictable”
“Health is private to the individual and management are not in a position to question ‘sick absences’.
But things have changed. Absence is expensive to business. The CBI 2000 Report, Focus on Absence indicates that the average cost is now £438 per employee per year. Allowing the myths to dictate inaction could be very expensive.
current costs, Health & Safety legislation and employees’ expectations regarding
working conditions and health issues, managers are now looking more closely
at supportive Attendance Management techniques.
show that absences from work can be the result of a complex set of factors:
fitness to attend
and domestic responsibilities
concerns or difficulties
attitudes to attendance
personnel and attendance policies and procedures
illness appears to be the major cause.
can be an important factor. Not
everybody enjoys good health, and support for individuals when they are unable
to attend work for debilitating health reasons is important, but research has
shown that if employees believe that management are indifferent to absence,
then absences increase.
can be done?
and promote the Health, Safety and Welfare of employees at work
and consistently applied
early and regular contact during absences
trigger points to initiate management and, if appropriate, medical referral action
return to work interviews & appropriate management
accurate measurement of absences
supportive and non intrusive.
An important part of attendance management is the recognition
and acceptance of responsibility for doing so at all levels of the business.
All employees have a duty to attend work unless unfit to
do so. If they are absent they
should inform their manager promptly, with an indication of the illness/condition
and an expected date for return to work.
They should also agree regular contact arrangements as appropriate.
should be approachable and consistent and demonstrate an interest in the well-being
of their staff. They need to
monitor all absences and take appropriate action when procedures trigger a
management response. Supportive
return-to-work interviews should also be conducted in all cases of absence.
The purpose of return to work interviews is to:
that management are concerned about the well-being of staff and that the
absence has been noticed and the staff member missed
the opportunity for staff to discuss health concerns in private with managers
that there is no underlying work reason which has caused the absence nor
ongoing health concerns at the point of the individuals return to work
the individual up to date with work issues
appropriate, alert the individual of managements’ concern about the number
or length of absences from work
that absence from work is considered important.
Individuals who are on Long Term sickness absence sometimes need ongoing support from work.
For example, regular, agreed contact by way of telephone
calls, visits or cards is important to show that they are missed and that
they are wished a speedy return to work.
Regular contact can also help identify any underlying problems
or concerns about the return to work.
possible or appropriate, notice of possible adjustments to working hours or
contact with a sick colleague or after a return to work interview there maybe
some follow up work for the manager to do.
specialists may need to be involved about the implications of any proposed
job change or part time working arrangements proposed on medical grounds,
as well as aspects of management, work demands or possibly work conflicts.
of absences are due to stress at work and if this is an area of concern advice
from HR and other specialists is important.
absences from work are increasing either on the part of an individual or from
a particular work area further investigation may be needed.
is important that meetings are
recorded for the following reasons:
confirms that management have taken action in attendance management
the individual is clear about managements concern about their well-being
and absences from work
appropriate action can be seen to have taken place in the case of work
Management is not easy as there will be many questions that arise:
it always have to be the Line Manager who gives the Return to Work Interview?
about the Disability Discrimination Act?
happens if the absence is stress related?
if the absence is after an injury at work?
What do I do if the absence is caused by bullying, harassment or discrimination?
training implications of effective management of absence are widespread.
For staff generally they begin at Induction when the organization’s
policy on reporting absence from work needs to be made clear.
Managers need to understand the importance of actively managing
absence. Newly appointed managers
need to understand the potential costs and problems associated with unmanaged
absence and need to be equipped with the necessary knowledge e.g. Managers
Health and Safety responsibilities, legal implications of absence management
including the effect of Human Rights legislation. All Managers, need the skills to carry out an effective return
to work interview.
attendance policies communicated and consistently implemented
procedures to be used by employees who are unable to attend work including
arrangements for keeping in touch.
managers responsible for managing attendance and conducting return to work
points to determine appropriate management action and appropriate referrals.
definition of the use of HR & Occupational Health resources
We welcome David Riddle to our team of Associates. David has more than 12 years experience of supporting the provision of an Employee Assistance Service, and has a wide practical experience in management and people issues. He specializes in the areas of Attendance & Stress Management.