How to Catch Employees Pulling a Sickie

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HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Successful absence management can be achieved through a number of techniques, including a clear written policy and integrated software.

Article 3 Minutes

Efficiently tracking absences within your workforce is an important part of any HR role. Not only will analyzing absence patterns make it easier to see when employees are taking days off, it can help you predict and even prevent them going forward. As the first Monday in February is the day when staff are most likely to pull a sickie, now seems like a good time to consider unplanned absences and how to tackle them.

1. Create an absence policy

Having a clear absence policy in place and signed by staff helps to cut down on sick days that can cost your business a significant amount of money. What’s appropriate to be included within the policy will depend on the organization, but there are a number of techniques that are widely used. These include requiring employees to call in and speak to their line manager as opposed to texting that they’ll not be working that day and issuing disciplinaries for staff who take more than a set number of days off consecutively without a note from a doctor.

2. Eliminate human error

While using a system based on paper and spreadsheets can work for an organization with a very small number of employees, it’s simply not scalable. The larger the data set you’re working with, the more opportunities for human error to creep in. It then becomes difficult to trust your record keeping and makes it harder to confront staff taking unexplained days off sick.

3. Invest in attendance software

Using attendance software has a number of benefits, but chief among them is the fact it doesn’t rely on the manual input of data by employees or HR. Not being able to access the system to modify data helps to cut down on time theft and the ability to run analysis easily helps to identify absence patterns, which can then be raised directly with staff. Fringe benefits include being able to bill clients more accurately for your time and make informed business decisions.

4. Integrate your attendance software with your HR system

While implementing attendance software will help to identify issues as they arise, it can’t reach its full potential unless it’s integrated with your HR system. Doing so will allow it to include all the previous attendance data you’ve collected and draw trends from this too. Having software that works together helps to cut down on double entry and allows for faster reporting.

5. Adapt to flexible working

Offering flexible working options is thought to cut down on unplanned absences, as employees tend to have a better work/life balance. Unexpected childcare issues can be dealt with more easily and working from home is often a more feasible option than traveling into the office when complications arise. While there are many benefits of flexible working, it’s important your absence management system can cope with its nuances and properly calculate the leave owed to staff who don’t necessarily work standard hours.

6. Identify trends

Analyzing absence data and identifying trends will show which employees take the most time off and help you tackle the reasons behind it. Armed with the facts, you’ll be in a better position to work on a solution. Careful monitoring and clear insights will also ensure you can see the impact staff absence has on your business. Among the common standards used to measure absence are:

  • The lost time rate - percentage of total working hours lost to unplanned absences
  • The frequency rate - average number of absences for a staff member as a percentage
  • The Bradford factor - a method used to calculate disruption caused by short-term absences

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