16 January 2015

Is your business managing absences well?

As the workplace becomes more intergenerational, absenteeism management must accommodate a wider variety of absences. Are you keeping up with new trends in absences, and can you spot problems before they happen?

Understand the causes

By 2030 four generations will be working alongside each other. You need to know the reasons for absences affecting each demographic in your workplace and adjust policies accordingly.

You can only tackle absences and make policies to manage them if you understand what causes them. Make sure you log all absences accurately – both the time spent absent and the reason for it. Software packages can help you spot trends in absences.

Make your policy known
If employees don’t know what is and isn’t acceptable or what support is available, they’re much more likely to pretend to be ill when other causes are at play. This will result in unrepresentative data, making it harder to create suitable policies for staff. Make sure employees know what they’re entitled to.

If you see lots of minor illnesses being logged regularly by an individual, it’s worth checking what’s really going on. They may be caring for someone on an ad hoc basis and need help to put some more permanent and predictable care in place.

Create a culture of openness
If your workplace has a culture of fear about taking absences, you will only be storing up problems in the long run. Emergencies will catch you unaware and damage performance or delivery.

A culture of openness, on the other hand, will enable people to come forward to ask for support when issues either inside or outside work are affecting them. If you know about these problems upfront, then you can build in contingencies and fall back positions to ensure work gets done.

Learn about carers
Caring is a cause of absence that is set to become more frequent. According to 2014 data from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), nearly a third of UK organisations report that employee absence has been affected by caring responsibilities.

With people living longer and people having children later, there will be a growing number of employees sandwiched between caring for both elderly parents and young children.

Find out the exact caring responsibilities people need to fulfil and create support that suits both them and your organisation’s workflow.

Offer creative support
Currently only one-sixth of organisations have a specific policy or guidelines in place to support carers, according to the CIPD.

Relevant policies could include:

• flexible working
• working from home
• paid or unpaid carers’ leave
• career breaks
• sabbaticals
• purchasing extra holiday

Think about what could be best for your organisation.

Monitor who’s covering
Just as the absent person needs to be understood and monitored, so does the coverer. Failure to spot the employee who is regularly covering for absent colleagues can end up causing problems. If they become overworked or stressed, they can either become ill themselves or negatively affect the morale of their colleagues. They may even leave, depriving the organisation of a hard-working individual.

Identify the unfair
Make sure absence policies are consistently enforced across an organisation. If they’re not, some employees may perceive favouritism in how schedules and teams are managed. This can damage morale and again prompt conscientious workers to move on.

Remember that absence management does not stop when the policies are created: they must be fairly enforced, especially by line managers.






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