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How to effectively manage employee absence

How to effectively manage employee absence (Last Updated On: July 29, 2014)

A recent survey by Direct Health Solutions (DHS) suggests that the average employee takes just under 9 days of personal/carer’s leave each year, costing each business an average of $2,700 a year. Interestingly, a large number of employers cited short term absences as the most difficult to manage.  So how can you effectively manage absenteeism in your organisation?

An interesting coincidence?

Whilst the survey shows a slight reduction in absenteeism since DHS’s last report, the amount of sick leave being taken is still remarkably close to the 10 days of paid personal leave permitted under the Fair Work Act 2009. Genuine co-incidence or are employees chucking sickies to take advantage of this entitlement?

The survey also indicates that illness and family responsibilities are key reasons for absenteeism, with a significant increase in mental health related absence, the greatest cause of which were non-work related factors.

Within the workplace, a strong link was found between low job satisfaction, high turnover and higher absenteeism. The theory being that happy workers do not take sickies. Organisations with ‘sickie’ cultures also, unsurprisingly, had higher absenteeism rates.

Key ways to manage and reduce absence

  • Policies: have policies which set out clear notice and evidence requirements which employees must meet to access paid leave. Ensure that employees must call their manager before they are due to start work and require medical certificates for any illness related absence, especially on peak absence days (eg Mondays and Fridays).
  • Record and monitor absence: it is difficult to manage lateness and absenteeism if it is not properly recorded and monitored. Monitoring absence will allow you to identify absence patterns and any employees with particularly high absences, enabling you to identify and address underlying causes at an early stage.
  • Return to work interviews: implement return to work interviews between employees and managers to discuss the employee’s health and fitness for work, any pattern of illness, job satisfaction and other issues. In genuine case, these constructive discussions show the employee that you care and help you identify and deal with issues to reduce future absence. They also serve as an effective deterrent for employees considering taking a sickie.
  • Long term absence: keeping in contact with employees who are on longer periods of absence to identify how you can assist them can often result in an earlier return to work.  However, long terms illnesses can be particularly difficult to handle and advice should be sought.

By Joanne Hall – Employment Relations Adviser

If you would like advice on how to manage employee absence, please contact Employsure on 1300 651 415.

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