Recently the team at AHR Consultants, have seen an increase in calls from clients about absence. Whilst it can be frustrating and disruptive, there are ways to manage attendance effectively in the workplace.

It’s the call that all managers dread and so far, this year, we have had to cope with Australian Flu, shocking winter snow, extraordinary summer heat, stress and Seasonal affected disorder (SAD) to name but a few. Managing attendance effectively can be a minefield, and every instance of absence and employee should be addressed appropriately according to the circumstances in question; after all, there is a difference between being unwell and simply not being motivated to show up to the office that day.

The Office for national statistics reported that in 2016 An estimated 137.3 million working days were lost due to sickness or injury in the UK. This is equivalent to 4.3 days per worker (the lowest recorded since the series began in 1993, when it was at 7.2 days per worker, the highest level over the reference period), but it is still a problem that causes employers a headache.

Most companies view attendance issues under two distinct categories;

  • Frequent short time absence
  • Long term absence

Short term can be sporadic and unpredictable causing disruption, whilst long term absence (usually a continued period of over four weeks) requires careful attention depending on the circumstances to facilitate a return to work. This article will focus on the former since this is what we’ve seen peak during the recent, and continuing, summer scorcher this year.

Frequent short-term absence

For managers it can be sometimes too easy to become cynical about people’s absences and not accept the reasons given, but the key to effective attendance management is consistency. Conducting return to work interviews can be an effective tool to;

  • Check health and fitness for work
  • Record each incidence of absence, and the cause
  • Identify patterns and trends in instances as well as reasons
  • Review the record for the previous twelve months to determine if there is a problem
  • Form the basis of an effective investigation that can be presented as evidence in any formal proceedings if needed

Setting triggers for review are a useful tool in managing attendance. When an employee reaches a defined trigger point the manager can ensure that the attendance records is reviewed, and then provide advice and guidance to the employee to help them improve their attendance at work and draw a ‘line in the sand’ in the first instance.  If that fails to provide the required improvement, more formal action can be taken if the employee continues to trigger under the policy.

Failing to manage attendance fairly and consistently can present significant legal risks since employees no longer have to pay fees to take you to a tribunal for claims such as disability and age discrimination. It is therefore essential that managers are trained and fully equipped to be able to;

  • Address absences fairly, consistently and in a timely manner
  • Identify risk factors, such as pregnancy and underlying medical conditions
  • Fully consider the circumstances of the individual concerned, when providing guidance and setting expectations

It’s not a one size fits all, you need to consider adjusting your approach to ensure no unlawful detriment is experienced by people by any pregnancy, disability, age and other factors.

Please call us on 0345 076 2288 if you have any questions or require advice/support.