Employment Law

6 top tips to reduce frequent short-term absences at work

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6 top tips to reduce frequent short-term absences at work

A common issue faced by many businesses  is employees who repeatedly take the odd day off here and there. However, these frequent short-term absences can be much more disruptive than long-term absences as they are more difficult to plan for. Here, we’ve set out six top tips to reduce frequent short term absences among employees.

  1. Have a clear, written Sickness Absence Policy in place. Your management team can refer to this and use it to support them, and to ensure that employees are aware of your sickness absence procedures.
  2. Get your employees to phone in personally. – Do not allow them to send a text or email to tell you they’re ill. It is far too easy for an employee to send a text from their bed, roll over and go back to sleep without a worry. Calling a manager and having a discussion is often much more difficult to do if you’re not genuinely too ill to work. A phone call also allows you to ask how long they expect to be off for, to help you to plan cover. Ensure the requirement for them to call is set out in your Sickness Absence policy, so that if an employee fails to do this, you can pull them up on failure to follow Company procedures.
  3. Have return to work meetings after each absence. Even if they have only been off for a day. The thought of having to sit across from their manager and discuss their absence will often discourage employees from taking the day off ill when they don’t really need it. Return to work meetings can also help you identify if there is an issue you are not aware of which is causing the absences. For example, they may have an underlying health condition, or there might be an issue with workplace bullying or harassment which is making them not want to come into work. These meetings can allow you to pick up on these issues at an early enough stage, deal with them appropriately, and ultimately reduce the amount of time the employee is spending off work.
  4. Use trigger points to begin investigations. Base these on the number of occasions the employee has been off in a certain period. Once the employee hits that trigger point, begin a more formal investigation process with them. The purpose of the investigation would be to let them know you are concerned about their level of absence and to get to the bottom of what’s causing it. This might lead to formal action under either your Disciplinary Procedure or Capability Procedure, depending on your investigation findings. Having these trigger points in place can be enough of a deterrent for a lot of employees, and, if not, you have the procedures in place to be able to deal with it.
  5. Make adjustments where possible/required. As an employer, you have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments where an employee has a disability, to help assist them at work. There is also a duty to give due consideration to flexible working requests submitted by employees. Often, employers consider it too time-consuming and inconvenient to make changes to the way an employee works, however making adjustments and having flexibility where you are reasonably able to do so ( bearing in mind your business needs), can ultimately reduce the amount of time employees need off work and help to solve absence issues.
  6. Stick to your policies and procedures! Setting out the above clearly in your contracts and handbooks is a great start, but it is important to keep on top of it and follow it through in practice in order to see results.
Author: Anna Nelson, Employment Law Advisor at Howarths
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