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Managing absence

By recruitment expert Fran Kent
 
Managing staff absence can be tricky. It’s tough to know the right questions to ask. Whether it’s a young lad who’s phoning in sick every other Monday or someone who has been off for several weeks and hasn’t given an indication of when they might be back, their absences have an impact on your business.
So what can you ask, when can you ask it and how can you reduce absence and benefit from a full, committed workforce?
 
A standardised absence policy is a good start. Make sure your employees know who they should contact when they phone in sick. Some big companies have a dedicated absence phoneline and a rota for manning it. Others have a policy that absentees should speak to their line manager.
 
Having a standardised list of questions to ask people when they phone in sick can also help keep things consistent. Questions could include:
 
When did you start feeling unwell?
Do you think you will be able to return to work later today?
Have you made an appointment to see a doctor?
When do you think you’ll be back at work?
When can someone phone you to check how you are?
 
Knowing that they will have to answer these questions can help to focus the mind of employees who might be feeling a bit tired or off colour without really being ill. 
If you have an employee who is regularly off sick, it is imperative that you communicate clearly with them before you take any action. 
 
Take the time to sit down with the employee to find out whether there is an underlying cause for their frequent absence. It may be that something is going on at home and that by adjusting their hours or enabling them to work from home on occasion, the issue can be resolved amicably. 
 
If you are unable to establish an underlying cause, make sure your employee has a copy of your sickness policy and procedures and give them a chance to improve their attendance. Outline your expectations and your disciplinary procedures. Of course, everyone involved will be hoping that things don’t go down that road, but in case they do, it’s essential that you have followed the right process. 
 
For further advice and information contact www.acas.org.uk.
 
The other important thing to keep in mind is the impact of staff absence on your other employees. If one member of staff is regularly off sick their workload will fall on the shoulders of their colleagues. If they don’t see that absence issues are being dealt with it can cause resentment to build up. 
 
Dealing with an absence issue can be a good opportunity to highlight the company’s policies to all staff and get their feedback on how well they think things are working.
 

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