The importance of absence management

Mar 07, 2023 • 7 min read

Recent research by PwC estimates that employee absence costs UK businesses around £29 billion each year. This financial burden is a serious issue for businesses and highlights the importance of absence management.   

Employee absence is an unavoidable part of managing a team and operating a business. People get ill, or experience issues that mean they can’t work. How do you manage it like a pro?   

In this article, we look at the importance of absence management and the best tools and strategies for reducing absenteeism and the implications for your business.  

Woman sitting at desk looking at paperwork

What is absence management in HR?

Absence management in HR is the process of managing and monitoring employee absences from work. This can include sick leave, annual leave, parental leave, bereavement, and other types of leave.

The main goal of absence management is to ensure that employees take time off in a way that is fair, consistent, and in line with company policies and relevant employment laws.

Effective absence management involves tracking employee absences, providing support for employees who need time off, and implementing policies and procedures to manage absences and prevent abuse of company leave benefits. This can include providing resources such as employee wellbeing and occupational health programmes, offering flexible work arrangements, and establishing clear guidelines for requesting and reporting absences.

In addition, absence management may also involve managing employee attendance and addressing absenteeism, including developing strategies to identify and address chronic absenteeism or other attendance issues that may impact productivity and workplace morale.

By managing absences effectively, HR departments can help ensure a productive and healthy workplace for all employees.

Why is absence management important?

A happy, healthy and productive workforce is the key to the success of your business.

Here are some of the ways employee absence can impact your business:

  • Financial – Employee absenteeism is a significant cost to businesses. This can be attributed to outgoings such as occupational or statutory sick pay, overtime pay, and temporary cover. It also has a knock-on effect on operational efficiency and productivity, which can have a serious impact on your profit levels.  
  • Operational – As well as the financial costs, absences can cause workplace disruption including workload rearrangement, shift rescheduling, and knowledge gaps. This can affect the operational efficiency of your company and cause resentment among your employees.   
  • Employee engagement – It’s not just about costs and productivity. Employee absence can also negatively affect the rest of the team who are left to cover the extra work.   

What are the best tools and strategies for absence management?

Now that we understand the importance of absence management, here are the best tools and strategies for reducing employee absenteeism:

A clear absence management policy

The main thing is to take a positive approach to absence management to optimise attendance rates. This should be laid down in an absence management policy and clearly communicated to all employees. It’s important that they understand how absences are dealt with and what’s expected of them.

Here’s what to include in your absence policy:

  • Your policy should provide a fair and consistent process for managing absence in the workplace. This should include details on how absences are tracked as well as information about fit notes and return to work interviews.
  • Your absence management policy should outline the procedure for reporting an unplanned absence. This should include information on who to inform, how, and when by.
  • Part of the absence policy should cover pay arrangements. This should include details on whether you provide Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or enhanced sick pay for a set period.
  • The absence management policy should also highlight provisions to support employees. This might include remote and flexible working, employee wellbeing programmes, mental health support, and childcare assistance.

Rewards for good attendance

Show your team you appreciate them and all the effort they invest in your business. Many companies are now offering incentives, such as cash bonuses, shopping vouchers and extra days off, to reward good attendance. This is a great way to improve attendance while also boosting team morale.

A focus on employee health and wellbeing

Promoting health and wellbeing in the workplace can help improve employee engagement, increase productivity, and reduce sick days. Not only will your employees be happier and healthier, but this can also boost your bottom line.

Here’s how you can promote a healthy lifestyle in the workplace:

  • Offer daily yoga and meditation classes
  • Encourage healthy eating with complimentary or subsidised food
  • Provide free fruit bowls around the office
  • Provide regular health education training sessions
  • Prioritise mental health in the workplace
  • Offer gym membership and private health insurance as part of your company benefits

Creating a positive company culture

Could your culture be contributing to burnout and illness in your employees? Promoting presenteeism, long hours, and micromanagement can all lead to an unhappy workplace and high levels of illness. You’ll also find it difficult to keep and attract the best talent too.

All the wellbeing initiatives in the world won’t work if your company’s culture doesn’t support them.

Absence management software

Absence management is a big part of managing a team, but it can be complex and time-consuming. Absence management software, like Ultra HR, is jam-packed with features to make it easier and quicker to track and manage employee absences.

Here are the key features of Ultra HR:

Bradford Factor calculator

Our absence management software has an in-built Bradford Factor calculator to help you keep on top of employee absences. The Bradford Factor is a simple formula that’s used to measure employee absence and its impact on your business. This allows you to nip potential issues in the bud before they turn into serious problems.

Employee absence data

Ultra HR makes it easy to record employee absences and securely stores the data within the absence management system. In-built analytical and reporting tools help you better understand the causes of employee absence. These insights can then be used to inform decision-making to help improve attendance.

Ultra HR absence management dashboard

Self-service tools

Employees can take responsibility for their own attendance with Ultra HR’s self-service capabilities. Employees can report their absence at the click of a button from anywhere, on any device. The system then automatically notifies their manager and updates the in-built employee leave planner.

Ultra HR's self-service absence reporting tool

Infection control

The COVID-19 pandemic saw how quickly viruses can spread around the workplace. Ultra HR has a symptom-tracking feature to help prevent and control the spread of infection. If any contagious symptoms are reported, automatic alerts are sent to everyone who has been in close contact with the infected person.

Ultra HR infection control feature

Automated payroll

One of the most exciting features of Ultra HR is the automated payroll, saving you time ad minimising payroll errors. Ultra HR seamlessly integrates with most leading payroll software solutions including Sage and Xero. It comes with automated tools for generating accurate payroll reports and dealing with statutory sick pay calculations.

Final thoughts  

While there’s an obvious financial cost to businesses, employee absence can also cause workplace disruption and low team morale. The importance of absence management is clear, so make sure you have an effective system in place. Ultra HR is jam-packed with features to make it easy to manage absences and accurately process payroll. Sign up to our exclusive 14-day trial 

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