By Richard Lewis, Workplace Health Specialist, Healthy Working Wales
The first step to creating a healthier workforce and managing positive attendance is to fully understand the current situation of your business. As we approach the end of the financial year, businesses will be looking back at the last twelve months and evaluating performance across their operations, and analysing how past experiences can positively shape the year ahead. April 6 heralds the start of a new financial year and represents the perfect opportunity for employers to review the health of their businesses, but also to evaluate the physical and mental health of their workforce; primarily the costs absorbed from sickness absence.
Whether short or long-term, staff absences hit companies hard and drain businesses of their vital resources. Thousands of pounds are lost each year due to illness, from staff cover costs to sick pay, lost production and poor service. Whichever way you look at it – sickness absence is costly.
Poor attendance affects businesses both large and small, yet many business owners do not take the necessary actions and procedures to review and monitor sickness absence and its impact on the bottom line. Monitoring sickness absence can help employers understand the effects absenteeism has on the workforce, as well as presenting employers with vital information on occurrences, patterns and/or triggers.
In order to get a clear understanding of the health of a workforce, business owners should look to employ an effective monitoring system to provide the business with a clear picture of poor attendance, the reasons and regularities. If there has been no data collated throughout the year, the end of the financial year presents a golden opportunity for business owners to instigate the introduction of an attendance management procedure, as well as a review on the perception on health and wellbeing.
Identifying and understanding the reasons why someone is absent, as well as the triggers for absence, can be beneficial for business owners for a number of reasons.
Analysing absence levels helps demonstrate:
- whether sickness absence is a problem within an organisation;
- the type of absence and whether this level of absence is normal (see results of CIPD Absence Management 2015 survey, here);
- whether there are any underlying causes of absence that may lie within an organisation;
- whether absences are being caused by internal factors within the workplace (e.g. poor management, workplace bullying or external factors);
- whether there are any patterns of absence between employees, or areas of the business with specific issues with attendance;
- the overall general health and wellbeing of the workforce.
Reviewing the physical and mental health, as well as the financial health, of a business, not only gives employers a clear understanding of absenteeism, but also gives business owners the opportunity to evaluate and review good health procedures within an organisation.
Many absences are down to common health problems including back pain, depression, anxiety, stress and work-related stress. By adopting and applying a positive absence monitoring service, employers can not only concentrate on managing short-term, repeated and long-term absence effectively, but also affords an understanding of why staff are off, when they will come back and how you as an employer can prevent sickness absence happening in the first instance.
Recognising and maintaining a healthy workforce can bring a whole host of benefits including workforce positivity, increased efficiency, and staff retention. And, encouraging and sustaining a happy and healthy workforce is also a key factor in avoiding sickness absence from the outset.
Being out of work is damaging to health, social and financial well-being and the longer someone is off sick the harder it is for them to get back to work. If you think that you may have a problem with absenteeism within your organisation there are a number of external organisations that can help including ACAS and Healthy Working Wales, which helps employers, individuals and health professionals in Wales stay healthy in order to stay in work or return to work following a period of ill health .
Employers and employees can phone the free Fit for Work advice line on 0800 032 6235 to speak to a dedicated advisor about monitoring sickness absence in the workplace. If an employee has been off work for four weeks or more, employers can refer them to Fit for Work by visiting the Fit for Work website and clicking on ‘refer an employee’.
The Fit for Work referral service is complemented by a telephone advice line (0800 032 6235) and website, both of which can be used by anyone requiring work-related health advice, including employees, employers and GPs.