How to Reduce the Cost of Sickness in Your Business

Recent surveys suggest that employee absence is costing employers a staggering eight working days per employee each year.

Yet the impact of employee absence to the organization can be significantly reduced – if you know how.

4 Types of Employee Absence

1. Short term absence

2. Long term absence

3. Unauthorized absence

4. Authorized absence

This article provides guidance in reducing the impact of both 1 and 2.

You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure.

It’s not called Absence Management for nothing! Organizations will significantly reduce their levels of sickness absence only when they can manage their current sickness rates. And in order to manage means systematic and proactive measurement of each of the 4 levels.

Sharp managers will look to use this information to spot trends in both specific individuals and specific types of absence with a view to addressing the root causes.

For those keen to highlight their achievements, measurement brings added benefits in quantifiably demonstrating the benefits to the bottom line will strengthen both the profile of HR and the case for further investment in wellness programmes.

How to Manage Short-term Absences

Available methods for reducing employee short-term absences cover:

– return-to-work interviews

– disciplinary procedures when absence levels become beyond what could be considered acceptable

– raising awareness of sickness absence policies and guidance to management teams

Return to work interviews

Return to work interviews are a great opportunity to discuss with employees the root cause of their absence.

By identifying such causes, effective remedies can be sought to prevent the absence reoccurring.

Disciplinary Procedures

To be used for unacceptable absences only. Speak softly and carry a big stick! Disciplinary procedures send a clear message that this type of absence is unacceptable and that employees will face consequences should the behaviour continue.

Management teams

Prevention is better than cure. Encourage and train management to be open to employee concerns that may lead to a period of absence. Through effective manager-employee relationships, employees will be encouraged to discuss issues and prevent employee absence from stress-related illness, for example.

Training can be provided to raise awareness of the organization’s policies and, crucially, raise their skills in counselling and communication.

Managing long-term absence

With 20% of absence lasting four weeks or more, effective management of long-term absences will be a critical factor in the success of any absence management policy. Interventions include:

– occupational health participation

– changes to working environments

– rehabilitation programmes.

A proactive absence management policy will have a strategy for managing such absence. Such strategies can cover four critical success factors:

– Maintain contact with long-term absentees. Take care to be sensitive with such approaches and gain agreement on the frequency and nature of contact with the employee.

– Plan appropriate changes that assist the employee in their return to work. A supportive approach will help reduce further employee absence with consideration taken concerning a full or partial return to work, adjustments made to employee scope and responsibilities, and employee friendly shift patterns.

– Occupational health. By assisting HR in planning a return to work, occupational health professionals have a major role to play in preventing a reoccurrence of the employee absence.

– A workable plan to ensure a successful return to work. Common to such plans are timings, responsibilities, changes to working arrangements and monitoring.

With well-considered planning, management and implementation of absence management considerable reductions can be made in the number of days lost to employee sickness.