The annual cost of sickness absence has climbed to almost £29 billion for UK organisations.
These absences are an incredible drain on revenue and create chaos for businesses. Companies are often short-staffed due to leaves and overworked employees struggle to recover from sickness, illness, or injury.
But organisations are in the unique position to reverse this trend by creating clear boundaries and putting the health of their workers first.
Here’s the lowdown on how to manage sick absences as an employer while supporting the health of your team:
There are two types of sick leaves for workers: short-term absences and long-term absences.
1. Short-term leaves are a hassle for businesses.
You need to find last minute coverage for a role or a shift, which adds extra stress. It can be particularly stressful for other staff members who need to change their plans to provide coverage.
2. Long-term absences, on the other hand, create a different challenge.
Extended sick leave means that something devastating is going on in the life of a worker, such as cancer or a serious injury. It’s always emotionally and physically trying for the individual and can strain the connection between an employer and employee. To maintain a solid relationship, meet regularly and show concern for your worker. During these catch ups, try to gather more information on the condition of your employee as well as the likelihood and time frame of the worker returning to work.
How to Manage Staff Absences
One of the most frustrating things about sick leaves is that they make business owners feel out control. These absences are almost always unexpected and frustrating for everyone involved. The way business owners manage the situation can have a big impact. By creating a healthy environment, planning ahead, and practicing clear communication, business owners support the overall wellbeing of employees.
Duty of Care
First and foremost, employers need to fulfill their duty of care by protecting the health of the employees at work. Taking precautions can’t ensure that your employees don’t get sick, but it does support their overall wellness and prevent injury. Consistently check for these three key characteristics:
- Physical Hazards
To limit any physical hazards on the job, make sure that any machinery or tools used by employees are up to legal standard. Also, create a system for giving adequate breaks to workers. Check in with them regularly to make sure they’re not taking on too much physical strain, especially if they work in a job that requires manual labor.
- Emotional and Psychological Pressures
Emotional and psychological well-being is just as important as physical health. Plan regular meetings with each worker to check-in on their workload and stress level. Managers are responsible for making sure employees don’t take on too much work. Support positive relationships and environment through team-building exercises and collaborative projects.
- Promoting Awareness
As employers, business owners have the opportunity to promote awareness of healthy living in their relationships with workers. Develop programs that create a dialogue around maintaining strong mental health, good eating habits, and regular physical exercise. Most importantly, model these practices and a healthy work-life balance.
Covering these three areas of workplace wellness ensures that employers live up to their duty of care.
Return to Work Interviews
For both short and long-term absences, plan return-to-work interviews confirms that employees are ready to take on their old responsibilities. Emphasize the value workers bring to your business and ask team members to confirm that they feel good enough to step back into the environment. Always bring compassion to these conversations as sickness is stressful for employees too. Before you end the conversation, give returning workers an update on any important changes or developments within the business.
If an employee takes too many sick days, initiate an honest one-on-one conversation. Start by discussing your concern and inquire about their health. Most of the time you can get a clear understanding of the issue through compassionate and open dialogue. If an employee doesn’t open up about their health challenge, ask for a doctor’s note. To take more than seven days off, the UK government requires employees bring a sick note to work.
Despite the efforts of business owners, some employees won’t budge. They will continue to take repeated absences without offering clarity around the cause. When these conversations fail to spark an improvement in the attendance record, you will need to take further action. Give the employee warning that the current situation is not working for your business — if they can’t change, you may need to let the employee go.
Tools to Manage Sick Leaves
Create and implement a Sickness Absence Policies bring transparency to the boundaries around both short-term and long-term absences.
This document should include multiple components that outline the employer’s support of their employees’ overall health.
Start by describing your organisation’s commitment to the health of their workers. You should state that as an employer, you are both personally and professionally invest in helping employees successfully return to their jobs.
Next, confirm that you treat all team members equally and consistently, including those who suffer from a disability, injury, or ill health.
Also, describe the leave and time off arrangements. Clarity about the number of days available helps employees to plan their medical appointments and attend to their health. The best managers include provisions that discuss the transition back to their roles with regards to scheduling and back-to-work interviews.
When I Work provides assistance to both managers and employees on this front. With an interactive calendar, it helps both individuals and management allocate time off, handle sick leave, and cover shifts. Plus, you can easily communicate with sick workers through the messaging system in the application. Using one integrated tool makes it easy for management to provide transparency and equal treatment of employees, regardless of their health situation.
Although sick leave can be trying for managers, business owners, and employees, it gives workers the bandwidth to get well and stay well. By supporting health in every aspect of your business, you generate meaningful relationships with employees who go the extra mile on the job.