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12 blogs of Christmas: Why absence management should be included in your 2023 business strategy

12 blogs of Christmas: Why absence management should be included in your 2023 business strategy

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Employee absences can result in large costs to a business, but they can be mitigated.  By having an effective absence management policy and processes in place, employers can respond efficiently and minimise absences. This can be beneficial to both the employee and employer, as both employee wellbeing and business interests can be protected.

Short-term versus long-term absence
Having the right procedures in place will help employers distinguish between expected short-term absences and longer-term ones which may need to be addressed.  Of course some short absences for illness are inevitable, and likely to be more prevalent during the winter months.  While these will usually resolve quickly, current difficulties accessing GPs can lengthen the duration of illnesses which require medical intervention.   Our blog on digital GP services looks more closely at this, and why providing such benefits may now be more worthwhile for employers.

It is important that employers have an effective management system in place, which enables them to pick up on longer-term or consistent absences.  This will highlight absence trends, presenting the opportunity to understand the reasons behind it before it becomes a more serious problem.  Employers can then provide appropriate support, whether the absence is due to illness, mental health difficulties or other personal circumstances.  An employer can then work with the employee to help them get the support they need.  This can reduce the length of absence, and prevent a situation reaching a breaking point.  Where applicable, it provides the employer the opportunity to amend job roles, support a phased return to work or a change in role.

Why absence management matters
Costs to the company are a clear consequence of employee absences.   The cost impact will depend on the employee’s salary and what they generate in revenue, and how long the absence is.  If the absence is significant, this may mean hiring an interim replacement, thus increasing salary outgoings.   Beyond managing legitimate absences, it is important that companies can monitor unauthorised absences or potential misuse of sick pay.

On top of financial costs, there are other knock-on effects which absences can have on a business.  These may be in less obvious and less quantifiable ways, and become more significant if absences are long-term or frequent.  Absences can result in a breakdown in project work, leading to missed deadlines.   There can also be a negative impact on working relationships, if other staff often have to cover for absent employees.  This could result in lowered morale or resentment, and is another reason that employer awareness is important .  If frequent absence has not been noted or addressed by the employer, there can be no opportunity for collective resolution, and frustration is more likely.  Lastly, consistent absences can result in knowledge gaps.  If an employee with a particular skill set is absent frequently, it can affect the quality of work that a team is able to produce.

Effective absence management is essential for most businesses.  Reduced absences and fewer claims for work-related absences protects the business from excessive additional costs.  It improves employee wellbeing, as increased absences are often a symptom of illness or other circumstances which could benefit from employer support.  When employers are better able to spot absences which deviate from an expected level, they can intervene and support employees before the impacts become severe.  This protects employees’ roles, their wellbeing and the wellbeing and productivity of their colleagues.  An appropriate absence management process also provides clarity for employees.  It enables them to understand the procedure if they are unable to return to work promptly, and how their absence will be handled, reducing disruption for all involved.