Sickness and Absence Management in SMEs

sickness absence policy

Think a sickness absence policy is not important? Think again. Repeated sickness absence is a problem for any business, but small businesses are particularly affected. According to CIPD, British workers take more than four times as many sick days off work than some of their global counterparts. At an average of 9.1 days per year (link begins free ONS report download), UK workers reported double the amount of sickness absence as US staff (4.9 days) and quadruple that of workers in the Asia Pacific region (2.2 days). These statistics are particularly alarming when the size of the US population is five times greater than the UK, and the Asia Pacific region is almost 70 times greater than the UK.
Everyone gets sick occasionally, but sickness and absence can really affect a small business. Many managers and businesses owners are unsure of how to deal with sickness appropriately ensuring that all employees are treated fairly and the business is in compliance with the law.

Absence can cause a number of key issues within a small business and often repeated patterns of absence due to ill health can impact on productivity across an entire workforce.

SME’s, due to their nature, do not allow for work to be easily taken on by other members of staff and as a result morale often suffers as a result of co-workers having to take on more work due to absent employees. Sickness absence must be managed effectively in order to minimise disruption in the workplace through a sickness absence policy.

CIPD states that an effective sickness absence management approach should be coupled with a focus on health promotion and employee well-being. CIPD believes that a proactive approach, supporting well-being can prevent people from going off sick, or enable an employer to deal with an issue before it becomes a real problem.

How to effectively manage absence in the workplace:

⦁ Make it clear to staff how absences will be managed, and that all employees know how to notify the company in case of any absences.
⦁ Keep records and patterns of absences. Do absences tend to occur at the start/end of a week? Or do they coincide with any significant events such as pay day or big sporting events?
⦁ Have a set level of absence in the form of percentages that you consider unacceptable – this will ensure that all employees are treated fairly and equally.
⦁ Conduct Return to Work interviews after each day or period of absences in order to establish reasons, and if there is anything particular in work or private life that may be a contributing factor. Return to Work interviews give employers the opportunity to talk privately with employees about the impact their absence has on the business as they may not actually be aware of the effects. It also enables employers to discuss if there is anything they can help the employee with or what support they may be able to offer them.

⦁ Best practice would be for employers to have a clearly-worded Sickness Absence Policy, and to avoid using a standardised Disciplinary Policy.

Some areas that should be included in a Sickness Absence Policy are;

  1. trigger points or levels of unacceptable absences
  2. sick pay rules
  3. how absences may be investigated where they are concerning for the business.

“Forward-looking companies will invest in health and well-being services to tackle the issue before absence starts to hit their bottom lines,” he continued. “This is particularly relevant for start-ups and SMEs, where the cost of absence can be crippling.” Pwc (PricewaterhouseCoopers).
If we can help you with your sickness absence policy or any other HR issue, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our HR Team at HR Services Scotland Ltd on 0800 652 2610.

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