Attendance management in HR

Attendance management is an important part of HR. It is crucial that a company has a robust attendance management policy in place. Absenteeism in the workplace has well-known affects. It can reduce productivity levels, lead to disengagement, and put pressure on other employees. If absence isn’t properly managed, it can encourage some employees to take advantage of a poorly monitored attendance system.

Manage absenteeism through a robust attendance policy and the level of absence in a business should improve. That being said, the correct support also needs to be given to employees if and when they are absent from work.

Attendance management categories

Attendance generally falls into one of the following categories;

  1. Planned absence – Annual leave, an appointment or agreed unpaid leave fall into this category. Essentially the absence has been pre-booked
  2. Unplanned absence – Sickness absence and emergency leave are examples of absence which is not pre-booked and therefore unplanned
  3. AWOL – Unauthorised and without any notification. This is a conduct issue. If deemed appropriate, an absence of this nature may need to be managed via a company’s disciplinary process

What is short term absence?

While ACAS define short term sickness absence as lasting less than a week, a company may choose to define this differently. For example, the CIPD deem short term absence as being up to 4 weeks. There is no legal definition of short term absence.

With a short-term absence an employee should call in unfit for work. This is important. The message should not be conveyed via another family member or be delivered by text. At the time, there is an understanding that the employee will not be absent for a significant time.

The initial telephone call should be thorough – don’t be afraid to ask reasonable questions. It is important to find out as much information as possible and gather the facts. Notes should be taken. An employer is well within their rights to ask when an illness started and the expected date of return. However, this isn’t an interrogation! Be empathetic.

Attendance management policy

Short term absences can cause a great deal of disruption to a business. If they occur frequently, staff morale can be adversely impacted.

What is long term absence?

This is usually defined as a period of 4 weeks or more. While a scheduled operation is easy to plan for, managing an absence which initially began as a short term absence can be tricky.

It is important to remember that whilst either on long or short term sickness, employees’ rights remain the same and they continue to accrue annual leave

What is long term absence?

How to manage long term absences

  1. Ensure there is a point of contact for the absent employee. This is usually a line manager. It helps to keep any updates simple and can prevent the employee from feeling isolated
  2. Agree a way of keeping in touch
  3. Ensure the employee is kept updated on any significant work changes
  4. Communicate and explain pay and any entitlements. This may involve SSP or company sick pay
  5. Garner information from the fit note and/or occupational health to understand how long the period of absence may be. Discuss any reasonable adjustments that may ease the process of returning to work

Attendance management policy – Supporting an employee

Keep the following in mind and remember that it is vital to meet with an employee on their return to work.

Does the employee need to be referred to occupational health?

If an employee has sustained an injury, reasonable adjustments may need to be made. Are the adjustments beyond the ability of the employer and is specialist advice and support needed?

Does the employee have any underlying medical conditions?

This links very closely to the Equality Act, (some underlying conditions may fall under this). For example, does the employee have a condition that may mean more time is spent away from the office? If so, this could change their score when working out their attendance. Any absence related to the condition could be mitigated (removed).

Attendance management in HR & the Equality Act

Regardless of the absence score, it is important to understand both the underlying conditions and the Equality Act. A company needs to ensure the upmost support is given to an employee and that reasonable adjustments are made to enable them to perform their job. It’s worth remembering that the Equality Act 2010 places extra obligations on an employer when dealing with a disabled employee.

5 reasons why a Return to Work meeting is important

  1. A 1-2-1 meeting enables the employee to update a manager on their health
  2. It allows the employer to run through any adjustments that may need to be made prior to returning to work
  3. The meeting protects the employee from undertaking anything unsafe. For example, prescribed medications could prevent the employee from using machinery and this may prevent them from returning to their original job. Health and Safety rules need to be abided by
  4. It helps to keep a record of the absence which could be used to spot trends in the future
  5. The meeting gives the employee an opportunity to discuss their general health. The reason for absence could be due to an underlying medical condition or a protected characteristic

5 tips on how to hold a Return to Work meeting

  • Ensure the meeting is held in a private and confidential place.
  • Ideally the meeting should be held before a shift starts. It is important to ensure that the employee is fit for work – they may not be!
  • Be as flexible as possible in terms of reasonable adjustments that could support an employee in their return
  • Be empathetic and sensitive to the situation. The employee may have been dealing with a sensitive issue
  • Return to work forms are an important record of absence. These may be looked at later down the line, so ensure all the information is factually correct. The employee and employer should both sign the document

If you require any further advice or help putting together your attendance management policy, please contact us to book your free 30 minute consultation.

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