According to a survey by XpertHR the median cost to a business of sickness absence is £568 per employee, even if you only have 10 staff that amount quickly stacks up. This figure though is unlikely to be an accurate measurement of the true cost of sickness absence given that in the same survey 42% of employers said they did not know if their absence data was accurate or not.
The Office for National Statistics reported that the sickness absence rate in the UK in 2021 rose to 2.2%, an increase of 0.4% compared to the previous year, and that an estimated 149.3 million working days were lost because of sickness or injury in the UK in 2021, which is equivalent to 4.6 days per worker. With that in mind businesses need to think about addressing sickness absence monitoring and management, primarily to support the wellbeing and welfare of their staff but also to reduce potentially unnecessary costs especially at a time when seemingly every other cost is increasing.
Absence can be effectively managed in a variety of ways, but at the heart of any successful approach to positively impact on absence is the data and information that is gathered by recording it in the first place and this is where a HR system can start to help.
By accurately recording absences on your HR system as and when they happen you are taking the first step to more effective, pro-active absence management. The data you record on your system doesn’t have to be onerous, it can be as simple as the dates of the absence and reason for it. By recording the information though you are starting to build a picture of absence in your organisation and if your HR system uses workflows then this recording can trigger a number of other tasks which also contribute to managing absence.
Most businesses ask their staff to call in and speak to a manager or other designated colleague in order to report their absence. If that information is recorded on your HR system it can easily trigger a workflow that provides a notification to the relevant manager on their employee dashboard so that they are aware of the absence, they can then reassign any work as required, they can contact the absent employee if they haven’t already spoken to them to have a welfare conversation and the notification then also serves as a reminder to carry out the next stage of absence management.
Your HR system can hold documents in a knowledge base or similar so that when the employee is better you have everything you need in terms of forms, guides and policies to be able to complete the return to work process. This is a key part in managing absence. By conducting a return to work interview you are ensuring that the information you already have about the absence is accurate and it is a supportive forum for your employees which allows them to discuss their absence and any issues that you may need to take into account or provide additional help with. Holding a return to work interview can also be a deterrent to the minority who may be tempted to falsely report absences which are not genuine. Once you have completed the meeting and typed into your form this can be uploaded to the employees record in your HR system so that there is a clear and easily accessible paper trail if you need to take more formal action or review any previous documentation later on without the need to go digging through a filing cabinet.
At the most basic level you can’t report on absence if you don’t record it in the first place! By using your HR system to record the information, you then have absence reporting at your finger tips. By running regular reports you can look for absence patterns and trends, you can filter the information by department, by absence reason, by date, if it’s recorded you can report on it. This will help you to easily identify any areas of concern, gather any contextual information and then to take appropriate action to address problems at an early stage.
Although there is a time investment in managing absence, by effectively deploying your HR system to support you it will ultimately save you time. Automating the process through your system saves time on manual recording and storage of information and by using the system to create a slicker, more focussed approach to absence management your overall absence rates will reduce and your staff will spend more time in work and be more productive.
At the start of this blog we established that absences cost a business money. By using your HR system to support effective management and interventions on absence you will reduce absence rates, you will save your business money and your HR system will have a demonstrable return on investment, simple.
At HRX, we offer a free 30 day trial of our HR software. Why not sign up today and see how easy it really is to manage sickness absence in your business.