Reducing absence costs

October 5, 2015

There are few people who haven’t rocked up late to work, blaming it on the buses, trains, their children or even their parents. Occasional lateness is not an issue but repeat lateness is and absence even more so.  Read on for some top tips on reducing your overall absence costs.

So why is managing absence so important  
As well as the obvious issues i.e. cost, absence levels can also be a major contributor to conflict or lack of employee engagement.  Absence is not a stand-alone issue and can be likened to being back at school when a sore stomach was invented to get us out of maths tests, dull school trips, and worse. Adults are still using illness as an excuse to avoid something – except that now their actions affect team-mates, bosses, clients and the bottom line.

Recording absence definitely works
Pulling someone up for lateness or absence every so often doesn’t work. They will be a bit more diligent and careful  until the next time.

You should be recording attendance and time-keeping. Regardless of working time lost due to lateness, consider how employees will feel watching a colleague stroll in late or slope off early on a regular basis. Line managers need to have procedures in place – and they need to know what level of lateness or absence tips the balance from ‘OK to overlook’ to ‘needs to be dealt with’.  You need to make it very clear that continuing lateness or absence will have implications, whether financial or disciplinary.

HR180 are here to help with recording absence and on working with you to identify the point when absence does lapse into the ‘needs to be dealt with category’.  If workers know that absence will be noticed and investigated, they are less likely to take time off work without proper cause.

Line managers timing their employees’ arrival in the morning can only result in a lack of trust, but they should still be aware of who is arriving when.

What if it’s genuine?
If someone is persistently late, before they face any degree of disciplinary action, you need to discover the reasons. It may be that they have genuine problems whether outside work, such as childcare issues, or at work, such as bullying, inability to cope with a heavy workload or difficulties with a colleague.

If the problems are genuine, you will have to address them, it may be a case of allowing the employee some flexibility with start and finish times. You may decide to sanction some degree of home-working. You may even have to talk to a team-mate about their own behaviour.

It is in every employer’s interest to have happy and productive employees, and knowing why they aren’t coming to work is a very good start.

What are the biggest challenges?

  • Measuring it – you need to measure absence so you know the scale of the problem and can develop a policy. This is where you can spot patterns, is the absence always on a Monday or after a holiday?
  • Having difficult conversations – many managers shy away from what they perceive as a ‘showdown’ with staff.  HR180 provides stress relief for managers and this is just one of the areas where we can help.
  • Developing an absence policy that triggers action – carrying out effective return-to-work discussions can help to minimise absence.
  • Engaging and motivating employees – a workplace where people’s views and skills are valued is a good starting point and helps to reduce absence.

What should you avoid?

  • Don’t ignore attendance problems it will only make matters worse.
  • Don’t overreact and make assumptions. If you have noticed lateness or short-term absences, try to get to the bottom of the reasons rather than rushing in.
  • Beware of discriminating, even unintentionally for example, lateness might be due to a disability you know about  or one you don’t. You might need to make appropriate adjustments.

Top tips

  • Train managers to be confident and effective in having difficult conversations.  HR180 can provide a training session to line managers in this area.
  • Hold return-to-work discussions whenever someone has been off sick (even a one-day absence).
  • Use appropriate health services, for example occupational health to help ease employees’ return to work.

If you only do 5 things:

  1. Measure and monitor
  2. Address the problem
  3. Be consistent
  4. Explain the consequences
  5. Train line management

Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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