Guest Blog: Four Tips for Managing Sickness Absence

Monday June 15, 2015

Dakota Blue LogoWe have teamed up with Dakota Blue Consulting to bring you some useful HR tips and insights to help you on your journey as an employer over the coming weeks and months. Our first blog gives you some key pointers to consider if you are thinking about taking up a great opportunity to start to grow your own talent within your business with apprentices.

It’s inevitable that from time to time, your members of staff will get sick. It’s to be expected, and it’s something that you can’t really avoid as you grow your business and your workforce.

As an employer though, you need to be sure that you’re managing your sickness policies and procedures in the right way. Without a robust approach, you could quickly find that sickness absence is seriously damaging productivity, and in turn, your profits.

So what’s the solution? Here are four tips to ensure that you are covered.

Create a clear policy so staff know what it expected of them

Your sickness and absence policy should cover how and when staff should notify the business that they need to take time off, details around provisions for return to work interviews, and any links to other relevant policies such as disciplinary procedures.

But remember, a policy is worthless if it is not clearly communicated and implemented. Be sure that your line managers are onboard, and have any necessary training that they might need.

Understand the role of your employee’s GP

The ‘sick note’ is now a thing of the past. Instead, GPs provide a ‘Statement of Fitness for Work’, otherwise known as a ‘fit note’. Instead of focusing on what the individual cannot do, it’s centered around the tasks that they are able to carry out, which can be really helpful to you as an employer.

Be as supportive as you can, and remember that there will often be low-cost solutions that can help your member of staff to get back to work.

Consider how you’ll support staff when they return to work

If an employee has been off for a lengthy amount of time, or they are still not quite feeling 100%, you need to give some careful thought to how you can ensure that they have the right support when they return. Returning to work after a period of absence can be exceptionally daunting, and without giving the proper support, you could run into some serious problems.

In practical terms, there are quite a few possible solutions here. Treat each case individually. Always liaise with the employee to discuss their needs and preferences. You might offer a phased return, reduced working hours for a set period of time, or extra assistance with carrying out tasks. Consider how you will bring them up to speed quickly on the changes that have happened in their absence. 

Be proactive rather than reactive

Dealing with sickness issues is much harder than preventing them in the first place. There are positive changes you can make to how you promote physical and emotional wellbeing in the workplace, and these are far more effective than efforts to problem solve once the damage has already been done.

Could you change working patterns so workers get enough sleep and aren’t left feeling tired and stressed out? Could you bring in a package of more flexible benefits that include things like health care or gym memberships? Have you considered upskilling your management team so they can spot problems early, like stress, and take action to rectify them? A creative and proactive approach could do wonders for your business.

If you would like to know more, or you are experiencing problems with sickness absence, get in touch with Dakota Blue to see how we can help.

About Dakota Blue HR Consulting

Jackie Brooker, Managing Director of Dakota Blue Consulting, is an experienced HR professional covering all aspects of attracting, recruiting, managing, rewarding, training, developing, engaging and exiting the right people for your business. She is known for taking the wealth of knowledge learnt in complex global organisations and communicating this with a down to earth, practical approach to help organisations get the best from their employees right from the start.

Talk to Jackie on Twitter @dakotabluehr

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