Employee absence is a significant cost for many organisations, yet research suggests that only a minority of employers monitor that cost. Employees may need time off for a variety of reasons, from short-term sickness to longer-term health issues. An effective absence management framework should support the health needs of employees while providing clear and consistent guidance to avoid unauthorised absence or inappropriate use of sick pay schemes. Organisations should have a clear policy that supports their business objectives and culture and explains the rights and obligations of employees when absent due to sickness. The law requires employers to provide staff with information on any terms and conditions relating to incapacity for work due to sickness or injury, including any provision for sick pay.
Once an employee returns to work, it is good practice to conduct a return to work interview between the employee and their line manager, and to keep this on file. Return-to-work interviews can help identify short-term absence problems at an early stage. They also provide managers with an opportunity to start a dialogue about any underlying issues which might be causing the absence. If the level of absence is unacceptable, according to your absence policy, then disciplinary action may need to take place. Due to the pandemic, employees may be absent for reasons out of their control, such as a positive test for Covid-19 or school closures. If this is the case, you may wish to implement flexible working or allow employees to work from home who previously weren’t. Ultimately, promoting a positive attendance culture, while emphasising that genuine sickness absence will be supported, can help to communicate that illegitimate absence is not tolerated and attendance-focused initiatives are supported.