WHAT IS ABSENCE?

 

The Official Definition

Eurofound, the EU Agency for the improvement of living and working conditions, provides the following internationally-accepted definition of absenteeism: ‘the manifestation of a decision by an employee not to present themselves at their place of work at a time when it is planned by management that they should be in attendance’.  A Eurofound study cites evolved HR policies as promoting good health and attendance, not penalising absence.

The Employer’s Definition

The first word most employers use when defining absence is not loss or inconvenience, but frustration.  And the Latin root of this word really brings home the problem with absence, because it derives from the word frustra, which means ‘in vain’, or ‘for nothing, to no purpose.’  No one wants any part of their business to be definable in this way.

So, instead of managing sick pay levels, let’s do what we’re paid to do, which is manage people.

A Return to Work Interview is a key tool in dealing with absence. HR Duo guide you through the steps required to conduct an effective Return to Work Interview and provide helpful tips and insights to dealing with common issues. We have developed a form that contains the key elements to be covered in a Return to Work Interview. 

Download the form

What is Absence Management?

Question: does your Company have Return to Work interviews with Employees who’ve been on sick leave?  If not, chances are you don’t have an Absence Management Policy.  And that’s probably costing the Company more than just money.

Absence Management (and let’s face it: more often than we’re talking about Sickness Absence Management) is a considered and appropriate Management response to the issue of Absence in the Workplace.   It’s the effect of an agreed Absence Management Policy and its consistent application within the organisation.

Because when employees finally return to work, or return to work again, it does not mean that underlying problems, entirely unrelated to illness or unavoidable personal issues, have gone away.

What is absence management best practice?

Best Practice: any method accepted as superior to any alternatives, producing results derived from other means.  And so Best Practice becomes a standard way of doing things.  Best Practice is only possible in any area of your business if you have an intelligent and fair Absence Management Policy and Procedure is something you can discuss with, and explain to, your team, and have no problem presenting to everyone when it’s first introduced, or amended or improved.

If you don’t manage sickness properly within the Company, you may as well give it a permanent line in your P&L.  Why?  Not managing sickness is the same thing as accepting it, and at any level.

And HR Duo’s clients are helped frame their own HR Management needs within the context of what is universally considered Best Practice.  We don’t believe sick leave – beyond what’s is genuine and certified - should be part of any employee’s remuneration package.

 

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COLM O'SULLIVAN
GRANITE TOPS
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HR Duo have been brilliant at helping us to address and resolve absence. It still happens of course, but now we have a clearly defined process to deal with it and the peace of mind of knowing that if it becomes more serious then help is just a call away.

 

Colm O’Sullivan, MD, Granite Tops

 

 

What is an Absence Management Policy?

A policy is simply an agreed and adopted course of action taken by the Organisation.  An Absence Management Policy is just that: it’s what your Organisation does when dealing with Employee Absence, whether this is short or long term absence. 

What is absence management in HR?

Every organisation has to deal with Absence Management.  But not every organisation has a comprehensive policy and set of procedures for dealing with Employee Absence.  Absence Management is a considered and appropriate Management response by the Management and HR Function to the issue of Absence in the Workplace.   It’s the effect of an agreed Absence Management Policy and its consistent application within the organisation.  And it’s part of what HR Duo provides its clients.

The Return to Work Interview is an important element in any Absence Management Policy. At HR Duo, we counsel our clients before any interview and have developed a useful form to help ensure all the important elements are covered.

Download the form

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Your policy needs to work for your business - and you need to implement the policy.

How to deal with Poor Employee Performance

Absence is really just one more thing to plan for and manage, and we believe this is how it is best dealt with.

So, the first thing you need to do is consider the effects of Absence – and sickness absence in particular - on the Company’s performance in all the terms that could possibly apply: Financial; Operational; Morale – and so on.   This means working with Team Leaders and the Finance Function to understand the true and total impact of Absence in the organisation.

If this exercise alone doesn’t provide the motivation to get Absence Management right, we suggest you re-examine your organisational objectives. (Note: this comment would normally call for the use of an exclamation mark, but we can’t stand them and promise we’ll never use them)

Agree it. Write it down. Communicate it.

Every organisation needs an Absence Management Policy and Absence Procedures to include a clearly stated procedure. 

Whatever policy you decide on needs to work for your business, its culture, and helps propel you along the path you plotted when you first wrote your business plan on a paper napkin. And the company culture point is just as important as the first: when employee talent is at a premium, and employers are competing for good people, a clear and fair Absence Management policy plays a part in any bid to attract and retain the right staff.

A policy is only as good as the degree to which it has been shared, communicated, and if necessary, discussed.

And any policy that reduces absenteeism costs for the business is a worthwhile one.

What is absence management in the workplace?

Running your business should be straightforward, especially where applying the following formula is concerned: number of employees x working days x average daily profit per employee.

If you’ve got your pricing correct, and know your overhead, it should be no problem. Right?  But unless you have a magic Excel column that predicts how many duvet days your employees are going take, or how bad this winter’s ‘flu outbreak is going to be, you can’t know what your Absentee Rate for the year will be.

So, you pay for employees’ absence in at least three ways: loss of income; sick pay; cost of Line Managers’ time that could be spent increasing sales or productivity.

Add to this the fact that every decision (or indecision) by Management in relation to Absence means that employees will expect ‘whatever goes’ in terms of, and dealing with Absence will apply to them too.

After all, the if the amount of available working hours you base your financial projections on is wrong, then so is your budget. 

And so, Absence Management is worth doing well. And with HR Duo’s platform, you only need to do it once.

What is Employee Absenteeism?

 

Besides being a business Fact of Life, what is Employee Absenteeism?

Employee Absenteeism is what happens when you think running your business is straightforward.  Just apply the following formula: number of employees x working days x average daily profit per employee.

You’ve got your pricing right, you know your overhead, so - no problem. Right? 

But unless you have a magic Excel column that predicts how many duvet days your employees are going take, or how bad this winter’s ‘flu outbreak is going to be, you can’t know what your Absentee Rate for the year will be.

Remember, you pay for the absence in at least three ways: loss of income; sick pay; cost of Line Managers’ time that could be spent increasing sales or productivity.

HR Duo realises that Employee Absence can be defined by these three categories of cost, and we help clients manage and mitigate the problem.

 

 

What causes absenteeism in the workplace?

Absenteeism in the workplace can be caused by many things, due to illness and family problems on the part of the Employee, all the way up to the most unforgivable of all reasons – poor management.

That’s right.  Poorly managed or motivated employees will often be absent from work.  If Managers are not looking after Employees’ welfare in terms of workload, deadlines and so forth, absence can prove the only salve for the Employee.

Equally, Employees who for some reason have not bought into the Company culture, or have been allowed ignore the effect avoidable absence has on their colleagues, may use Absence as a harmless entitlement.

Whether due to sickness or other reasons, Absenteeism can become a problem for your Business if you don’t have a clear policy, clear procedures, and supporting company-wide communications method to protect the Business from its effects.

Absence Management is less time-consuming than any related disciplinary procedure.

 

How to reduce absenteeism in the workplace?

It’s not possible to prevent Employees becoming ill, or having domestic problems that prevent them from coming into work. 

But it is possible – and necessary – to manage and reduce avoidable and unwarranted Absenteeism in the workplace.  Absenteeism of this type is does not just impact your Business and its survival/success: it’s a problem for Employees who don’t feature in the Absence statistics but who have to make up for the gap in effort and output when they cover for their absent colleagues.

Every organisation needs an Absence Management Policy, to include a clearly stated procedure.  And managing absenteeism needs to be a collective goal of all Managers.

Whatever policy you decide on needs to work for your business, its culture, and helps propel you along the path you plotted when you first wrote your business plan on a paper napkin. And the company culture point is just as important as the first: when employee talent is at a premium, and employers are competing for good people, a clear and fair Absence Management policy plays a part in any bid to attract and retain the right staff.

A policy is only as good as the degree to which it has been shared, communicated, and if necessary, discussed.

Agree it. Write it down. Communicate it.

 

How to deal with employee absenteeism?

The bad news is: if your Business doesn’t have a clear Absence Management Policy, along with supporting procedures, Employee Absenteeism is very difficult to deal with in a meaningful way.  The issue of occupational health is an integral part of any organisation that has a workforce, regardless of its size.

The good news is: if your Business does have a clear Absence Management Policy, along with the necessary supporting procedures, Employee Absenteeism likely to be straightforward to deal with.

Every organisation needs an Absence Management Policy, to include a clearly stated procedure.  That is, unless you want an unsustainable and harmful level of absence to establish itself over time.

Whatever policy you decide on needs to work for your business, its culture, and helps propel you along the path you plotted when you first wrote your business plan on a paper napkin. And the company culture point is just as important as the first: when employee talent is at a premium, and employers are competing for good people, a clear and fair Absence Management policy plays a part in any bid to attract and retain the right staff.

A policy is only as good as the degree to which it has been shared, communicated, and if necessary, discussed.

Agree it.  Write it down.  Communicate it.  Act on it.  Stick to it.

 

How to discuss absenteeism with an employee?

For the purposes of providing a reply to this question, we are assuming that – as a professional Manager or HR Officer – you know you are not dealing with genuine illness, domestic issues, bereavement, or similar.  And in these cases, the Employee needs to be helped and protected in keeping with both Employment Law and the Company’s own stated beliefs or culture.

If the Absenteeism is caused by a lack of Management support, or insufficient training, or harassment or bullying in the Workplace, then it’s your job to uncover these reasons in respectful, one-to-one meetings with the Employee.

However, if Absenteeism is a function of an Employee’s lack of interest in the job, the Company, or an unsustainable lifestyle, then the only way of discussing absenteeism is by putting the Company’s Absence Management Policy ‘front and centre’ within the dialogue.

Every organisation needs an Absence Management Policy, to include a clearly stated procedure. 

Whatever policy you decide on needs to work for your business, its culture, and helps propel you along the path you plotted when you first wrote your business plan on a paper napkin. And the company culture point is just as important as the first: when employee talent is at a premium, and employers are competing for good people, a clear and fair Absence Management policy plays a part in any bid to attract and retain the right staff.

A policy is only as good as the degree to which it has been shared, communicated, and if necessary, discussed.

Any Line Manager worth his or her salt will value a clear and fair policy as they manage their staff.

So, agree it.  Write it down.  Communicate it.  Act on it.  Stick to it.