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Managing unplanned workplace absences

Managing unplanned workplace absences

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The total cost of workplace absence to UK economy annually is £16 billion. In other words, unplanned workplace absences happen, and there is a lot of them. Although this can be a potentially tricky issue to deal with, unplanned absences are something that every organisation must be prepared for.

Particularly during the Christmas period, unplanned absence can be at its height. During the festive period are endless opportunities to go to Christmas markets, dinners, parties and other festive events. That is why it is extremely important for every company to closely monitor employee attendance throughout December, and here are some tips on how to manage it…

  1. Have a clear policy

If you don’t have one already, an employee absence policy is a statement of how your business deals with absence. It gives clear direction to all employees and managers on the procedures relating to absence, and how absence should be managed. This ensures that there is consistency and clarity across the organisation, with all employees and managers knowing what action is required of them.

  1. Enforce and communicate your policy

There is currently an average of 6.3 sick days per year in the UK and almost every employee is entitled to sick pay whether it be statutory or not. By ensuring legal rights and company policy are clearly communicated to every employee in the business, disagreements and confusion about time off can be easily avoided.

Absenteeism needs to be monitored and enforced quickly, consistently and fairly to avoid unplanned absence and unauthorised sick days

To avoid repeated absenteeism, monitor no-shows closely to spot possible trends and enforce extra policies needed to tackle recurring issues. An example of this is monitoring the reason for absence and tackling it by enforcing a policy of what is expected from the sick employee who is taking time off, which can be anything from a telephone call notifying their line manager an hour before their start time to providing necessary documentation after the absence.

  1. Introduce ‘Duvet Days’

Sometimes your employees really do need to take some unexpected time out for personal reasons.  Allow staff to take a maximum number of days each year as ‘Duvet Days’ at short notice.

  1. Be flexible

During the time between Christmas and New Year, you may find everyone wants an extra break, often without much notice. As it is a time like no other, when employees want family time and make travelling plans, putting a fair plan in place is a must.

If your company deals with holidays using the ‘first come first served rule’, manage tension by giving those who missed out at Christmas, a priority in picking holidays during summer or winter the next year. Or for an immediate resolution, let employees take their holidays at the start of the new year,

For staff expected to work during Christmas, consider allowing them to work from home for some or all the festive period. If time away from the office isn’t acceptable, think about reducing hours on certain days. Being sympathetic and offering gestures like these will reap huge amounts of loyalty and appreciation from employees in the long run, benefiting the company in many other ways such as improving employer branding.

  1. Make restrictions clear

If there are certain periods of time within the December months which are extremely busy for your business, you are legally entitled to restrict and refuse holiday requests. However, these restrictions must be made clear to employees beforehand to avoid any backlash.

To have more authority over employee attendance, encourage staff to spread their holidays throughout the year, and potentially choose a maximum number of days’ leave each month that you will allow each employee to have.

Unplanned absences can’t always be predicted, but with these simple strategies, the burden of unplanned workplace absence management can be eased.

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