Posted by : Amanda Stein Friday, August 16, 2013




As the days lengthen and temperatures rise, the thoughts of some staff will turn to activities outside work. Unfortunately, some of these activities will take place during office hours (Wimbledon being a prime candidate), raising the likelihood of employees taking unauthorized leave or “throwing a sickie”.

HR intelligence source XpertHR estimates that in the UK, employees miss 6.5 days work each year due to unauthorized absences (including sickness). They calculated that the annual cost to a business is $826 per head. These cost estimates fail to account for the intangible effects of absenteeism, such as lower workforce morale, increased stress levels, and the risk of encouraging other staff to take unauthorized leave.

It is therefore essential that your business does whatever possible to reduce absenteeism. Here are five ideas to help you manage and reduce unauthorized leave.


1. Monitor and report on absenteeism

It is absolutely essential that your HR team keeps accurate, long-term records regarding time, attendance and absence. Using this data, it then becomes possible to report on absenteeism and identify persistent offenders, or patterns in absence that may indicate a more significant underlying problem.

Your HR software should allow you to capture all this data, automatically creating a record trail that can be used as proof in any disciplinary proceedings. Ideally, your system should allow you to create custom reports that can be used to analyse attendance data using any variables of your choice to gain a complete understanding of employee absenteeism within your business.

Using these insights, you can then work with staff to address issues both inside and outside the workplace, with a view to reducing absenteeism. You may find that deep analysis uncovers evidence of workplace harassment, unhealthy conditions, or other factors that need to be rectified to keep staff safe and healthy.


2. Implement flexible working policies


Many staff will find the temptation to take a sickie much easier to resist when offered the opportunity to work more flexibly. Working from home, or adjusting working hours, may be all that is needed to keep staff on board and in work.

Flexible working practices rely on a degree of trust between employers and their workforce. This may present a significant issue where a member of staff has persistently had a problem of unauthorized absences. However, studies consistently suggest that staff work longer hours from home and are generally more productive, too.

To make sure flexible working privileges are not abused, you will need to create acceptable working policies to govern the practice. You may need to define productivity targets or find a way for staff to log their hours so that you can assess whether the scheme is working as hoped. This information should be collected in your HR system and reported on in the same way as standard time and attendance data, to proactively identify abuses or other problems.

Flexible working could also help your staff achieve a better work/life balance, further reducing the chance of them taking unauthorized leave due to personal factors or illness.


3. Promote employee health

Diet, exercise and sleep are the responsibility of individual staff, but neglecting any of them has a direct effect on productivity and general well-being. The impact on an employee’s immune system could result in a predisposition to illness, and therefore time off work to recover.

Clearly, then, employee health should be of interest to employers looking to reduce absenteeism. Because sleep, diet and exercise are all personal issues, employers need to approach such topics with extreme sensitivity.

Simple steps include improving the quality of food in company canteens, or replacing junk food in vending machines with healthier alternatives. Staff should be encouraged to stay hydrated throughout their shifts or to take the stairs when moving throughout the building. And, where a culture of working longer hours may be emerging, staff should be encouraged to go home at the end of the working day to rest.

For businesses serious about improving the general health of their employees, investment in programmes to help stop smoking or reduce drinking may yield long-term benefits, both for the individuals themselves and for the company.

How your employees choose to act outside the company is their choice, but your business can still make some small changes to improve general well-being during working hours.


4. Attendance incentive schemes


Where your HR team identifies a lack of motivation as a root cause of absenteeism, you could consider implementing an incentive scheme that rewards staff for attendance. Common schemes include offering shopping vouchers or small cash bonuses for full attendance over a three-month period.

For smaller businesses, or those without the cash reserves to make regular bonus payments, they could instead operate an internal lottery. Members of staff who have achieved 100% attendance go into a draw for a single higher-value prize.

Some managers may object to paying staff bonuses for simply meeting their contractual obligations, but issuing a £20 supermarket voucher every three months is much more affordable than the £533 absenteeism cost reported by XpertHR.

To ensure that an incentive scheme operates smoothly and free from abuse, your HR team will need to routinely record time and attendance data. As before, your HR software can help automate many of these tasks to prevent an incentive scheme creating new administrative overheads for your team.


5. Enforce attendance policies


Although employment issues are generally best addressed through negotiation and incentives, you will sometimes need to take a harder stance. Your business should have an attendance policy in place that outlines your thinking on absenteeism and how it will be dealt with when a problem is identified.

To ensure that employees take these policies and implications seriously, it is essential that they are adhered to. Your HR team should be proactively monitoring time and attendance data to identify abuses, and using the specified policy to remediate the situation. Should your staff observe that key employment policies are ignored, they are much less likely to think twice about pulling a sickie.

Where there is a disciplinary issue, your business will need to be able to demonstrate accurate record keeping in the event of a dispute. As well as raw time and attendance data, your HR team will need to be able to show details of warnings issued, patterns of absenteeism, and proof that staff have been issued with a copy of the company attendance policy. Again, if your HR system cannot perform these tasks, you should be looking at investing in a new one.

As well as encouraging staff to come to work faithfully, your business needs to ensure it has the HR computing platform in place to identify absence issues early. By capturing and analysing attendance, data patterns of absenteeism can be halted before they become a cultural habit in your workforce.

Reducing absenteeism is a constant battle, but the effect that staff absences have on a company’s profit margin can be significant. Sometimes resolving problems may require additional investment, but the costs of reducing absenteeism are unlikely to be greater than the potential savings.



Written by Alexandra Johnson, who works for Cezanne HR. She blogs on employee engagement, performance management and employee management.


Google Contributor

Follow by Email

Popular Post

A huge thank you to our readers! You've helped us reach

Copyright © Indiesilver Marketing Blog