Sickness absence management: the ultimate guide

2 Apr 24 | Blog

In your organisation, do employees have to call in when too unwell to work – rather than send a text, or a Slack message? In your work culture, do people battle through colds and flus and reserve ‘sick days’ for just serious or gastro-related ailments? 

Whether officially or unofficially, every organisation handles sickness absence in their own way. But although it’s tricky to plan for unplanned time off, managing sickness absence is something all leaders need to take seriously.

Read on to learn why absence management matters, and the role that HR analytic software can play…

What sickness absence does to your organisation

In the UK, absence rates hit a ten-year high in 2023 – 7.8 days each, on average. This rise should be alarming to organisations because of the various potential negative impacts:

  • Financial impact: in 2020, a report suggested estimated losses of £1 billion annually, in part due to sickness absences – with other research suggesting that employers themselves lose £781 per employee annually.
  • Productivity impact: it’s not just the cost of lost time. Absent employees impact productivity in their own role, and of their colleagues – especially as it impacts morale and motivation more widely.
  • Workflow impact: cancelled meetings, missed deadlines, projects sat waiting to be reviewed – when absences are frequent, the knock-on effect to the organisation’s workflow can be disastrous. 

It’s plain to see: sickness absences can have a damaging effect on an organisation on multiple levels – and as rates are rising, now’s the time to start managing absence.

4 challenges when managing sickness absences

1. A lack of absence data

In 2014, the CIPD found that below 2/5ths of organisations track the cost of absence. Now, in 2024, a survey showed that 34% of leaders want to improve absence tracking software, and 52% plan to start modelling absence costs. Although more and more organisations are clueing into the fact that absence management matters, it’s still in the early stages.

2. Policies that don’t work

Do you offer mental health days? Or flexibility around things like doctor, dentist, and optician appointments? Or let parents clock-off to see their child’s school play? There’s a lot of reasons people could call in sick when they perhaps don’t need to – and surely it’s better they feel free to do what they need to do for a couple of hours, rather than losing a whole day of productivity?

3. No way to track trends

Are absence rates rising, or reducing? Are particular teams seeing more and more incidences of absenteeism? Beyond having the absence data itself, you need a way to view it on a timeline – and filter to different departments and demographics. Otherwise how can you tell if things are improving or getting worse, without non-stop data analysis in a spreadsheet?

4. Lack of reliable benchmarks

It’s worth remembering that average sick leave is often higher in some industries and demographics. Being able to compare your sick days rate to industry-relevant benchmarks is key, not to mention seeing disproportionate increases from employees with particular characteristics. Then you know what to improve, and where to start.

Absence management: made easy with Qlearsite Pro

Managing sickness absence isn’t hard, if you’re doing it yourself. But there is an easier way: on our people analytics platform, you can get access to absence metrics and benchmarking. Not to mention the same for attrition, salary, and gender ratio too!

Here’s how it works:

  1. See your absence rate against an industry-relevant benchmark
  2. Get auto-insights about your data: is your absence rate trending upwards?
  3. Find out if there’s a particular characteristic (like tenure) driving that increase
  4. Use simple filtering tools to investigate further, and find your focus area

It’s easy. It’s affordable. It’s absence management and much, much more in one easy-to-use platform. Find out more…

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