Ben Daniel: How can employers help solve absenteeism in the office?

absenteeism In the UK, tackling absenteeism in the office requires employers to understand and fulfil their legal obligations regarding the health, safety, and welfare of their employees. The law mandates that employers must do what is reasonably practicable to protect their employees’ health, safety and welfare, including mental health, as well as the health of others who might be affected by their work activities.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 imposes a duty of care on employers to protect their employees from work-related stress. Furthermore, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers to assess the risk of stress-related ill health arising from work activities and take measures to control that risk.

Employers are also legally required to prevent both physical and mental ill health in their workers that may arise due to business activities. This includes conducting risk assessments aimed at protecting employees’ wellbeing. While wellbeing or mental health risk assessments are not currently a legal requirement, there is a growing consensus on the need for such measures.

In addition to these obligations, employers are encouraged to create an environment that promotes mental wellbeing, recognising its importance and their legal responsibilities in this area. Health and safety law further extends to the requirement of providing a safe working environment, which covers a safe system of work, access to safe equipment, and the right to protection from hazards.

Employers can combat absenteeism by ensuring compliance with health and safety laws by conducting regular risk assessments, providing training and support to help employees manage stress and improve their mental health, offering flexible-working options to accommodate different needs and reduce stress, creating a workplace culture that values and supports mental wellbeing, and engaging with employees to understand their needs and what support they require.

By taking these steps, employers can help solve absenteeism by addressing its root causes, and creating a healthier, more supportive and more productive workplace for their employees. This not only complies with legal standards but also demonstrates a commitment to the wellbeing of the workforce, which can lead to reduced absenteeism rates.

The pressures of the cost-of-living and stress means that the mental health of many employees has suffered and workplace absences have increased. There are many steps an employer can take to manage absence, both preventative and after the fact. Firstly, putting measures in place to reduce stress and improve the mental health of employees will have long-term positive effects in increasing workplace attendance and staff retention.

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Furthermore, finding ways to enhance workplace flexibility may also help with the negative impact that the cost of living has on employees. Finally, ensuring the completion of all the proper procedures, such as accurately recording sickness and conducting return-to-work interviews, ensures there is a thorough process in place to help support attempts to manage and reduce sickness in the workplace.

Ben Daniel is partner and head of employment, pensions and immigration at Weightmans