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Managing Absence Effectively

07 December 2016

For all businesses, small and large alike, the challenge of managing employee absence can be a tricky one.

The CIPD’s 2016 annual Absence Management report has highlighted that more employers are recognising the vital role that line managers play in supporting employees, but most aren't giving them the tools they need to manage absence effectively.

So, as employers what can we do to help our managers and employees alike, and reduce absenteeism?

Absence Management Policy – Ok so this would seem a fairly obvious one, but they can vary hugely in depth as well as how they are adhered to, and this can make all the difference.  A well-considered and detailed absence management Policy should be the cornerstone of your approach, right down to the basics of implementation.

For example, everyone must phone in, that is not email or text, before 9.15am on the day of absence, no exceptions. Creating a fair and standardised approach across the board will ensure everyone knows where they stand and what is expected, they are all treated equally and discontent over favourable treatment can never become an issue in your workplace.

Communicate – An open and honest approach with your workforce is always more effective than springing a written warning on them for high levels of absenteeism.  Make sure everyone is fully aware of your absence management Policy, right from induction through to incorporating it into Performance reviews.  There should be no surprises.  

It is also useful to ensure employees and managers alike know that an absence management policy can help to identify periods of stress for employees, and to protect and support them as opposed to just being ‘big brother’ and placing their every move under scrutiny.

Educate managers – Your managers are your front line to implementing your absence management policy.  Make sure they are fully up to date with the policy and procedures, and any nuances or amendments that may arise.  This will help them feel able to apply them consistently and accurately on every occasion.

Actively promote flexible working – At the end of the day some of us just aren’t morning people!  Now you may argue then they should just suck it up and get on with it like everyone else.  But if your workplace can offer a more flexible approach to working, empowering your employees to manage their own time more effectively could iron out any number of small niggles that lead to instances of absenteeism.  

For example, helping them to incorporate school drop offs, doctors’ appointments etc. can be hugely beneficial to staff morale, and we all know how beneficial boosting staff morale and engaging your employees can be in reducing absenteeism.

Hold a return to work interview – As part of your absence management policy, conducting a short interview upon return is recommended, again no exceptions to the rule.  It can be invaluable to an employer to be able to understand the reasons for absence, identifying patterns for an individual, for a department or the company in general.  

It can also help you identify future problems and enable you to support your employees whether it be a conflict at work situation or family problems, and avoid the absenteeism snowballing uncontrollably and ending destructively for both you and the employee.  

Asking the right questions can effectively nip a situation in the bud before it escalates into a problem.


If you have any questions about managing absence or want to find out more about our other services, please call us on 01295 675506 for a friendly no obligation chat.


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