It’s estimated that 141.4 million working days were lost to illness in 2018 and those absences cost businesses approximately £550 per employee.

But failing to manage absence correctly not only has a huge impact on the running costs of the business, it can also lower employee morale and increase illness throughout the workforce as a whole, as employee’s struggle to take on more work to cover their missing colleagues.

The Sniffles

We all get minor illnesses such as coughs, colds, flu, sickness and stomach bugs and they made up 27% of all absences in 2018, but how do you make sure they’re genuine?

  • It’s important your employees are aware of your absence reporting procedures and follow them! Texting or getting the wife to ring in for you are not acceptable unless you’re in hospital or you’ve lost your voice.
  • Conduct a return to work interview for every absence – it’s much harder to tell fibs face to face.
  • Keep accurate records so you can identify any trends – if David is always off on a Monday with little ailments, it might be time to have a word.

Some people do naturally have lower immune systems than others and will be more prone to picking up bugs, but others do just fancy a duvet day every now and then, handling minor illness absence in a consistent way means you can deal with all eventualities fairly.

Something more Physical

Despite better knowledge of health & safety, musculoskeletal disorders still account for 19% of absence. What can you do to prevent back pain causing an absence?

  • Follow the same process as you would for minor illnesses
  • Carry out a risk assessment to check for high risk activities that can cause back and neck problems, put some actions in place to mitigate the risks and makes sure employees know what these are
  • If employees spend a lot of time on their computers, carry out a Display Screen Equipment assessment and make sure you encourage regular breaks
  • Don’t be afraid to refer employees with persistent problems to occupational health or ask for a medical report from their GP or specialist – they’re better equipped to advise you on changes you can make to help
  • Can you offer alternative assistance, such as helping with physiotherapy, massage or other therapies?

Mental Health

Disability discrimination claims are on the rise, increasing by 37% in 2018 and it’s estimated that a third of these are mental health discrimination claims. How do you protect yourself and help your employee?

  • Use a medical questionnaire at recruitment stage – this will allow you to support your employee from day one and form a better relationship
  • Train your managers in how to identify signs of stress and how to have conversations about depression, anxiety and other mental health issues
  • If an employee does go off sick, don’t ignore them – agree how often you will keep in contact and make sure you do!
  • Consider ways to offer help and support. What changes can you make to their workload or working times? Can you help them get counselling? Do they need a work buddy who can support them one on one?

Long Term Health Issues

Although absence rates amongst those with long term health problems has fallen overall, long term absence has a significant impact on a business. Remember, your employee may be facing financial and psychological difficulties along with whatever illness they are absent with. Work with them to find ways you can help reduce those strains and encourage their return to work. An occupational health report can really help in cases of long term sickness absence.

Whatever absence issues you are facing, there’s nothing more important than communicating with your employees and working together to find a solution.

Statistics have all come from the Office of National Statistics –

Do you have questions about sickness absence?

Give us a call at CUBE HR, we’ll be happy to advise you and we have policies and templates available to meet every HR need.

Why not check out our video on the same topic Long Term Sick – 3 Things You Need to Know

You can also watch other videos on our You Tube channel