An Employers Guide to Absence Management – Part 2

In Part 1 we focused on identifying types of absence.

Part 2 will focus on the importance of record keeping, the use of absence management tools and what information you are reasonably able to request when employees advise you they are sick.

What information do I need to record?

When advising employers on managing sickness absence, I will always need to see the absence record of an employee.  That doesn’t just mean the number of days they have been absent, it MUST include the following:

  • The date/s of absence
  • The reason for the absence

Am I allowed to ask for the reason? What if it’s confidential or something the employee is embarrassed about?

All sickness is confidential but your employee is absent from work so they cannot refuse to tell you why. Do make sure that they are able to speak to someone in a position of authority and that the conversation is kept confidential and can’t be overheard etc.

Isn’t ‘sickness’ the reason for the absence?

It is but unless you ask what is wrong with your employee you will not be keeping accurate records.

Remember, you have a duty of care to disabled employees and if the reason for absence is disability related you will miss a vital opportunity to try and identify any reasonable adjustments. This is a legal requirement under the Equality Act.

The absence may be pregnancy related, this may prompt revisions/updates to the initial pregnancy risk assessments you carried out. REMEMBER- Our Health and Safety experts can provide step by step guides to risk assessments, please call us on 0800 151 2935 if you wish to discuss.

For example and as we discussed in Part 1, taking disciplinary action in either of the above instances can result in claims for discrimination. Discrimination awards are uncapped, so they can be very costly indeed.

What questions can I ask when an employee advises they are sick?

In addition to asking them what is wrong, you should ask them if they plan to visit their GP, what medication they are taking and crucially how long they think they will be absent from work.

If they are seeing their GP then ask them to call you after their appointment for an update.

Employees should call you each day they are absent, unless covered by a medical certificate. You must instil in employees the requirement to report their absence by telephone.

Text messages, emails and messages sent via other employees are not appropriate. Neither is Facebook! Believe it or not I have dealt with incidents where employees have used Facebook to notify their absence- not acceptable.

Now you know what you can ask your employees and how to record that information what next?

Part 3 will address how to use this information to proactively manage the different types of absence from when to take disciplinary action to gaining access to medical reports for those on long term sick or who have persistent absence from work.

And remember…

If in doubt, call us on 0300 100 8704 for assistance, never assume all sickness absence is the same!

Remember, you set the standard for how absence is reported. HR Best Practice actively encourages employers to ensure employees report absence directly. Failure to do so may result in records being incomplete, which may prove costly.

This means that you will not be able to properly tackle sickness absence within your business which in turn will prove costly.

How do I record absence?

Spreadsheets and absence forms stuffed in HR Files are technically ‘record keeping’ but in these data sensitive times and with the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it is worth investing in a robust and reliable absence management tool. These are very user friendly and do far more than simply record absence.

Avensure Online is a very useful system which will allows you to record absence, identifies absence trigger points and will notify you when an employee has been absent for a certain amount of time. For further information on this please visit our website.