• Workplace Health & Wellbeing

Managing Absence and Promoting Workplace Attendance

Posted: 05/04/2022

Business success - regardless of what industry you operate in and the size of your organisation – always depends on people. It’s for this reason that managing absence and absenteeism in the workplace should always be a priority for employers.

In 2019, one in 25 people in employment had a long-term sickness absence – that’s generally classed as anything over 4 weeks absence. It’s estimated that these absences costed UK employers more than £9 billion. Not only that, but absenteeism can also disrupt productivity and reduce employee morale and engagement. Clearly, absenteeism is costly for your whole team, so it’s important you know the causes, and strategies to reduce it, for the benefit of everyone.

Mayfield Clinic promoting workplace attendance

What Is Absenteeism and Why Is It a Problem for Your Business?

Absenteeism refers to a pattern wherein an employee is habitually and frequently absent from work. This excludes paid leave and occasions where an employer has granted an employee time off, such as an illness, jury duty, or bereavement. When absence becomes frequent and excessive, it beings to be a problem.

Excessive absences can equate to decreased productivity and can have a major effect on company finances, team morale, and other factors. Ultimately, if someone works less, they’re less likely to be productive. This will be felt directly by their colleagues and the overall organisation, putting pressure on productivity and profitability.

By managing absence, you can make a direct impact on organisational performance and employee morale by identifying and addressing their root causes and making strides to address those issues.

What Are the Most Common Causes of Workplace Absence?

Whilst some absence from work may be unavoidable, there are significant drivers and influences upon decisions about when to take sick leave and when to return to work. If you are aware of these, it can help you come up with a dedicated, effective plan for managing it for the benefit of your employees and your business. Below are the most common causes of workplace absence.

  • Mental health issues

According to recent figures from the CIPD, stress and mental ill-health are major causes of employee absence. And according to the UK’s Mental Health Foundation, almost 15% of people – nearly a sixth of the workforce – experience mental health problems in the workplace. This research also showed that offering better mental health support to employees could save UK businesses up to £8 million a year.

  • Minor illness

Minor illnesses such as colds, flu, stomach upsets, headaches and migraines remain the most common cause of short-term absence (four weeks or less) for the majority of organisations. Illnesses such as these can strike at any time, and are an inevitable part of working life, which means they will likely prove costly for all businesses.

  • Back pain and other musculoskeletal (MSK) injuries

Back pain, neck strains and repetitive strain injury are cited as common causes of both short and long-term absences. These conditions may be more common in sectors involving lots of manual work, but bad posture in the office can also lead to a host of unwanted conditions down the line.

  • Stress

Stress-related illness is among the biggest causes of both short and long-term absence in the UK, with 79% of respondents reporting some stress-related absence to their organisation over the last year (CIPD). Heavy workloads, management style and working relationships are among the top causes of stress. Non-work factors such as family and relationship problems and health issue also contribute to people’s stress levels.

  • Recurring medical conditions

Recurring medical conditions such as asthma, angina and allergies are among the top causes of short-time absence but can also lead to longer periods off too. Employees with recurring medical conditions may need an extended period of time off work to recover.

Mayfield clinic managing absence

Why Is Managing Absence in the Workplace Is Important?

Several studies, including the CIPD Health and well-being at work survey, have shown that the average employee is absent from approximately 6 working days per year. Besides financial costs, absences also cause other issues like workload rearrangement and shift rescheduling, as well as an overall impact on productivity and morale. Below are 3 impacts absenteeism can have your business which demonstrate why absence management is so important.

  • Significant cost to employer

The median cost of absence per employee is £554, according to a CIPD Absence management survey.

Absenteeism can reduce profit margins in two ways. First, if organisations are spending more money on overtime pay and contract workers, direct costs go up and profit margins are likely to reduce. Second, absenteeism can decrease revenue if employees with specific roles aren’t present. Employees who sell services or build and deliver a product – such as workers in manufacturing, software engineering or sales – simply have less time to hit their goals when absent, potentially decreasing revenue.

  • Disruption to productivity

If employees are regularly calling in sick, this can delay projects and means that there is no consistency within teams. An un-planned absence also adds to the task-loads of co-workers, who must cover duties to keep the office or manufacturing system running. They may need to put their own job responsibilities on hold, resulting in decreased productivity overall. And if a temporary replacement has been hired, guiding the new worker through tasks can also decrease performance efficiency. Similarly, managers become less productive when they must take time away from their regular workload to find replacement staff and reorganise the workflow.

  • Poor morale and engagement

This will be particularly relevant if employees constantly have to fill in for absent staff. As missed work time increases, employees in the office are left making up for the work not performed by employees who are absent, which causes morale to fall. As a result, these employees can suffer from low motivations and engagement if their colleagues are regularly absent, as they take on added workload for employees who are absent.

5 Tips for Managing Absence and Promoting Workplace Attendance

There are many different strategies to reduce employee absenteeism and enhance retention. Below are 5 tips for managing absence and promoting workplace attendance. These may require changes to your workplace culture, management approach and internal communications, but the effort is well worth it since it can have a far-reaching impact beyond attendance.

1. Allow flexible working and remote work options

A lot of time when unauthorised absences occur, it’s because the employees’ personal life conflicts with their work life. For some, a 9 to 5 working day isn’t always the best work schedule. Allowing the employee to manage their time and decide their own hours can have huge differences to absence. Flexitime and the ability to work from home gives workers a better work-life balance, which can also help with morale issues and burnout.

2. Provide feedback and encourage open communication

Give your employees effective feedback or reward them for their accomplishments. Not giving feedback can make your workforce feel under-appreciated, and at the same time, make them feel that you will be unaware when they are not present at work.

It is also important to encourage open communication and dialogue around well-being and ill-health, where this is either impacting on work or being impacted by work.

3. Consider refresher training for your line managers

Tackling unacceptable absence is part of every line manager’s job but many managers report feeling ill-equipped to deal effectively with what can be a difficult subject. Training can look at subjects such as appropriate intervention strategies for short and long-term absence, having conversations about sensitive issues, the legal framework, and how to conduct effective return-to-work and sickness review meetings.

4. Make your absence policies clearer

What do your staff have to do in order to call in sick? Is sending an SMS acceptable? Is there a cut off point? Always ensure you have a very clear HR policy to reduce the impact absences have on your business. In most cases, asking employees to phone in sick and ensuring they do it by a certain time in the morning has a positive impact on reducing absences and reducing the impact on productivity. Your absence policy should also include what procedures will follow should excessive absenteeism be something that needs addressing.

5. Offer private healthcare cover to your employees’

Offering private healthcare cover to your employees’ can help manage the cost of short-term sickness absence and other impacts on business and provides treatment to employees so they can return to work as quickly as possible. Private healthcare cover provides employees with fast, effective treatment when they need it and assists employers with getting staff back to work quickly. Physical and mental health are essential to an engaged and productive workforce, so by offering private healthcare you can control the cost of employee absence and the impact on lost productivity on the bottom line.

Mayfield Clinic private healthcare cover

Why Choose Business Healthcare with Mayfield Clinic?

Mayfield Clinic is a family founded private healthcare clinic, offering same day appointments with experienced GPs. The practice was founded by Dr Amanda Northridge in 2009, initially operating at the Manor in Headington, Oxford. Since then, Mayfield Clinic has grown extensively, developing into both a multi-location practice and online GP service. Our mission is to be your partner in healthcare by delivering safe, caring, personal and convenient healthcare services to enhance the wellbeing of our patients.

At Mayfield Clinic, our clients are our top priority. Through video consultation appointments our world class private GP services are available nationwide, and at a time and a place that suits you. Whether you’re running a start-up or managing an SME or a large corporation, below are 3 reasons why our world-class private health services can support both your organisation’s and employees’ needs.

  • Quick and easy access

Avoid long wait times when trying to see a GP or a specialist. All our consultations are conducted online with direct access to both GPs and specialists. Our expert doctors are available for same-day appointments Monday-Friday, and aim to provide and exceptional quality of healthcare, so your employees can get back to work faster.

  • Mental health support

Employees can sometimes feel burned out due to stress and anxiety. We offer rapid access to expert private psychological healthcare to ensure your employees get the mental health support they need. Our specialist practitioners use top-quality evidence-based psychological treatment.

  • Effective physiotherapy

Make sure that your staff are physically fit to come to work. Working in conjunction with our GPs, our Physios focus on providing simple but effective care for MSK injuries. If the physiotherapy recommends specific exercises, they’ll guide your employee through them so they can try them at home and explain how to stop the pain from returning. If follow-on treatment is needed, they’ll recommend the next steps.

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