How to Reduce Sickness Absences


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sickness leave costs businesses, and the economy on the whole, a huge amount of money. Though absenteeism in the UK has been steadily falling for the past decade or so, the numbers are still huge.

Article 4 Minutes
How to Reduce Sickness Absences

The largest survey of late, in 2016, found that sickness absence made up an average of 2.8% of working time per annum, that’s 6.3 days per person, costing employers an average of £455 per employee. With these statistics in mind, it’s important to know there are ways to reduce absenteeism in your business.

Read on to find out:

  • The importance of a thorough Sickness Policy
  • The need for a happy, productive work environment
  • How to properly train staff
  • How to reward zero absenteeism

Sickness is obviously sometimes unavoidable, but by making sure you tick all these boxes, you could reduce absenteeism in your business and create an altogether happier and more productive environment.

A thorough Sickness Policy

It is important to have a comprehensive sick policy in place so that people understand and are less able to abuse absenteeism in your business. There isn’t a one size fits all for sickness policies, however, important things you should consider include;

  • How you will record sickness absence
  • How you will provide leave and time off to help people returning to work or attending medical appointments
  • Procedures for contacting staff on sick leave and arranging interviews for when they return

Your company policy should be easy to understand and not open to varying interpretations. Bearing in mind that some people do abuse the absence system, this needs to be very thorough, however, at all points you should respect that it is very likely the person is being honest with their illness, you are on a slippery slope if you start to deny this.

A happy, productive work environment

Preventing sickness is, in some cases, possible. Some 80% of adults will suffer from back pain at some time in their working lives, Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs) are a huge problem, and there are ways to reduce them. Employees need to be educated on the importance of their posture, and how they sit and type, as well as being encouraged (and allowed) to have some breaks from sitting. Consider the types of chairs you buy, especially for people who spend a long time sedentary for their jobs. There are many types of chairs available that alleviate strain on the body and reduce the chance of WMSDs.

Stress-related illnesses, often caused by work pressure, lack of support from managers and work-related violence and bullying, can also be dealt with. It is your responsibility to make sure that the environment people work in is one they want to work in. If employees feel disillusioned, they are more likely not to want to come into work. Make sure you communicate well with people in your team to make them feel they have everything they need to feel happy and do their job well, as well as adopting a zero tolerance policy with bullying and violence.

Well-trained staff

It is important that all managerial staff are trained adequately to deal with absenteeism. It is their job to;

  • Make sure employees are aware of the procedures and policies for dealing with absence
  • Be the first contact for the sick employee
  • Keep all absence records up to date
  • Be on the lookout for patterns of absence which might be of concern and conduct interviews when employees return to work

In having staff who are trained to deal with absence, you make sure that everyone is in the same boat, and alleviate yourself of some of the stress of dealing with sickness all the time.

Rewards for zero absenteeism

Implement rewards for people who show zero absenteeism (or near enough). Some suggestions include: ‘fun outings’, ‘lunch on the house’, ‘prime parking’ and ‘gift cards’. This obviously should not be a replacement for a workplace with drive and good morale, there’s no point just rewarding people for showing up to work, they should feel motivated to do so anyway. However, by giving rewards for excellence in attendance, you are demonstrating what this means to the company, and encouraging all to comply. It shows employees that you value and need their presence so much that you are willing to reward it.

It is vital that you handle sickness absence with a firm but compassionate hand. Sickness is, in many cases, unavoidable and you should respect that. However, by having a thorough sickness policy, well-trained staff, a good working environment and incentives to have good attendance, you will create a more positive, motivated workforce, who are more likely to want to come into work.

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