Genuine Sickness or Patterned Absence? How To Manage Short-Term Absences

Absences from work are unavoidable, and during the current Covid-19 pandemic, businesses are experiencing more of them than ever. Short-term absences, particularly repeated and patterned, can be a difficult issue to manage and navigating such situations often requires professional HR input. Read on for more info on managing short-term absences, and if you still need further direction, get in touch!

What classifies as a ‘Short-Term Absence’?

A short-term absence is classified as any absence not agreed in advance between the employer and employee. This could include being absent from the workplace for just a few hours (including lateness) or any time period up to 7 days. For sickness absences, an employee in the UK can self-certify themselves as unwell for up to 7 days without the need for a Doctor or other healthcare professional to authorise the absence.

Managing Patterned Short-Term Absences

If absences seem to be repeated at certain times of the year, a pattern may be ascertained that highlights an employee need. If those with children are continually taking time off during school holidays or those of faith are always absent during certain religious celebrations, consider amending working practices to help them around these periods. Could you offer flexible working temporarily, shift swaps amongst staff or unpaid leave? Consider facilitating proper leave to discourage unpredictable short-term absence.

Monitoring Absence Levels

All businesses need monitoring in place for employee absenteeism, and this should always include a stated reason for each absence. This helps identify patterns and/or any issues with individuals, as well as an areas for improvement within the workplace. For example, there have been instances where call centres were able to reduce flu and cold sickness levels by up to 80% simply by supplying staff with alcohol cleaning wipes and eliminating shared headsets!

Items to consider in a Workplace Absence Policy

If your business doesn’t already have a workplace absence policy or contract clause in place, one needs to be implemented. An absence policy gives employers the opportunity to formally address issues with frequent short-absence, unexplained absences and persistent lateness and apply this toward its existing disciplinary processes. Consider implementing return-to-work interviews or forms, and if an issue appears to be arising with repeated or patterned short-term absences, request medical reports.

These can help establish any underlying issues an employer should be aware or and can work around to offer additional support for.

Be aware of discrimination risks

Employees with a disability should be approached slightly differently in order to comply with discrimination laws and protections. In these cases, absences related directly to a disclosed disability should be excluded from any disciplinary proceedings – and expert HR, and sometimes even medical, advice should be sought.

Managing short-term absences has long been a tricky issue for employers but there’s lots that can be done to avoid them and to manage out any issues before they escalate. Investing in people will always yield a return in loyalty, and if it doesn’t, those people aren’t the right fit for the business.

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