Tips on Managing Staff Absences in Winter
31st October 2019
Winter is the peak time for staff absences due to illnesses, holidays and the bad weather preventing employees travelling to work. With the NHS planning its biggest flu campaign in history, now is the best time to start planning for inevitable staff absences which are likely to affect UK businesses. Follow the tips below to help your business to effectively manage staff absences during this period.
Promote health and well-being – encourage good hygiene practices to remind people to wash their hands regularly to help prevent the spread of diseases. Encourage people to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing and sneezing, immediately dispose of the tissue and then wash their hands afterwards. Offer hand sanitiser to employees to ensure they are disinfecting their hands in-between washes. Promote healthy eating, getting a good night’s sleep and exercising regularly to keep staff mentally and physically fit and ready for the working day.
Stress Management – the winter months can be incredibly stressful with Christmas approaching and increased absences, those left working tend to have to work even harder to cover those who aren’t there. This can lead to stress, exhaustion and anxiety, which can cause more people to take time off. Stress is one of the leading causes of absences in UK workplaces, with UK businesses losing 15.4 million working days in 2017/18 due to work-related stress. Consider providing stress management and resilience training for all staff and make sure practices are in place to identify and support those in need.
Flu Vaccinations – providing flu vaccinations for your staff is an extremely effective way of preventing mass outbreak of the flu in your workplace which can lead to long-term absences, especially in the winter months. The flu vaccination is the best defence we have against the flu and now is the best time to provide them to staff.
Ensure you have an absence management process in place
Your staff need to be made aware of and fully understand the company’s absence management policy. All staff members should know the exact process that needs to take place if they are ever sick or cannot attend work for any reason. They should know who they need to contact, what method they should be contacted by, what time they should be contacted by and what information needs to be provided by them, such as how long they will be absent for.
Non-medical absences procedure
Ensure you have a procedure in place for those who cannot attend work due to non-medical reasons such as adverse weather or because they have to look after a dependent, such as their child. Make sure you record these absences as non-medical. In these instances, there is no legal right for an employee to be paid, however positive employee relations should be taken in account in these circumstances so employees do not lie and say they are ill instead, which can affect your absence statistics. Consider implementing work-from-home options, if you can, which can maintain staff productivity.
Measure your staff attendance/absences so you can analyse this information to identify any patterns or trends which you can then improve on. Spotting these patterns will allow you to prepare for future absences and shortages which can minimise the impact on your business in future.
Set trigger points
Set trigger points when monitoring staff absences so you can see if absences become unacceptable. For example, if a person takes more than a certain number of days off in a set time period. This can allow you to highlight these members of staff and sit down with them to discuss their absences more formally.
Implement return to work discussions
Regardless of the length of time your employee was off, return to work discussions should take place. Ask staff to self-certify their absence upon their return to work. This self-certification will ask the employee to detail the cause of their absence and sign to confirm they are providing factual information. If an absence is longer than 7 days, they will need to bring a doctor’s note certifying their illness and inability to work. This process makes it more formal and therefore makes calling in sick a less attractive option for those who aren’t actually ill. A return-to-work discussion can also support your employees return and help prevent re-occurrences.
Pro-actively manage long-term absences
Long Term absences can be classed as anything from 4 weeks plus. Keep in regular contact with the employee to check they are ok and recovering well. Arrange a meeting with them to get a real understanding of the situation and how much longer they will need off and when they will be fit to return to work. Seek the advice of a medical professional to establish any long-term effects from long term absence and if improvements can be made to help assist an employee’s return to work.
How can Kays Medical help?
Kays Medical offer Absence Management services to help you manage absenteeism in your workplace which can help to improve productivity and reduce the cost and negative impact of staff absences. We can arrange a bespoke service that suit you and your workplace and are able to support you when setting up your service from policies through to referrals and reports. Kays also offer stress management and resilience training which can help your employees to manage their workloads and prevent the build up of stress, anxiety and exhaustion which can lead to increased absences. We are also able to offer workplace flu vaccinations in which we can come to your site, or multiple sites, to administer the flu vaccine to all your employees to prevent the spread of influenza in the workplace. If you would like any more information on what services we can offer to help you manage your staff absences this winter, get in touch today.