Danielle Ayres: How employers can ensure future resilience for workplace absences

workplace absences

It is crucial to ensure employers have crystal clear practices and policies for managing employee absences. Employers which properly invest in handling absences in the right way will see a marked improvement in staff performance, retention, productivity and business resilience.

Absence management is central to ensuring ongoing business operations, helping minimise disruption and maintain service levels. Not having a solid absence management strategy could result in a drop in productivity, employee wellbeing and business operations. A proper strategy will help to minimise, manage and address the volume of employee absences, and introduce policies and procedures needed to effectively manage and track absences, while complying with relevant legal obligations.

All businesses must have an effective sickness absence policy that sets out how employees should report absences due to an illness or injury, what documentation is needed at different stages, payment during sickness absence, for example will the employee receive just statutory sick pay or does the business offer an enhanced sickness benefit, levels and methods of communication during sickness absence, and what happens in cases of unauthorised absence.

In a constantly changing working world, clear HR policies are more important than ever to ensure employees understand an employer’s approach. Open communication with employees around absences, policies and procedures is essential, ensuring all team members know how to notify their managers when they need to take time off work and how any absences and return to work will be managed.

This ensures that employees know they can take the appropriate time off to rest and recover, rather than forcing themselves to show up for work when they are not feeling well, as well as ensuring the business can effectively plan in their absence. This is key to enhancing overall employee wellbeing and the business operating effectively.

To further improve team-wide wellbeing, it is advisable to provide absence-related support both during an employee’s time away from work and on their return. This will help alleviate some of the stress or anxiety around taking time off, while also helping to promote the business’ transparent and open approach to handling absences, creating a positive workplace culture when it comes to taking time off sick and returning to work. This could include employee assistance programmes, flexible working arrangements, or a phased return to work.

Employers should be aware of the impact unmanaged absences and returns can have and take the time to introduce the right procedures. Helping to promote a positive working environment and increased communication around sickness absence and the causes of the same will increase employee retention, job satisfaction while also demonstrating that the business cares for its staff and all employees are treated equally.

For employees, the value of knowing that cases will be treated properly is not to be underestimated; employers should have a supportive culture that communicates staff will be properly looked after. The right policies and procedures provide much-needed clarity for employees and will also help to attract and retain top talent.

Danielle Ayres is an employment law partner at Primas Law