Henicka Uddin: Employees should be involved in updates to absence policies

If employers are considering introducing or updating absence policies, it is good to include staff in the process by consulting with them on plans. There might even be an agreement in place to consult on changes, in which case this will need to be adhered to. Either way it is important to listen and consider ideas, suggestions and concerns staff have so when a decision is made, everyone is fully informed and staff feel included.

One important aspect of any absence policy is to set out how to manage an employee’s return to work. If done properly, this can support recovery and reduce the impact on business.

Before a return to work, it is a good idea to discuss with the employee whether they are ready, as well as considering any updates, reasonable adjustments or phased return necessary. Any recommendations from an employee’s doctor, employee assistance programmes if available, and referrals to a medical service such as occupational health should also be mentioned at this stage.

If employers are considering a phased return to work, it is important for them and the employee to agree on a plan for how long this will be for. A phased return doesn’t always mean reduced hours, as lighter or different duties could be considered.

The cause of the absence should dictate what type of support an employee may need to return to work. For example, if an employee has a disability, by law their employer must make reasonable adjustments if needed to help them return to work. This could include changes to working hours, duties and tasks, workstations and equipment.

Employers should continue to regularly review employees’ health and wellbeing in the workplace and make adjustments where necessary.

Finally, as with all employee relation issues, we must not underplay the value of soft skills and how they can help implement policies. Good communication, building trust and empathy will go a long way in managing relations.

Henicka Uddin is the London area director for the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas).