Managing attendance at work

Apparently the first Monday in February is the worst day of the year for worker absenteeism. So cup half full view - it's February and people get the cold/flu etc. There was no doubt from looking at the stats that there were seasonal trends.

Absence in my last organisation typically was around 5%. About half of that was long term absence typically for cancer , musculoskeletal injury , and stress/mental health. Worryingly the second most popular reason for absence was "not known". That may tell us something about the level of management attention being paid to managing attendance at work. So 2.5% short term sickness absence in a large organisation doesn't seem too bad if you start from the premise that 0% isn't achievable. But does the 2.5% figure as an average, hide peaks amongst certain staff groups or departments ? Sickness absence seemed to correlate to lower paid staff. Is this because lower paid staff have lighter finances to eat well, and keep their homes warm.

There is a clear link between poverty and ill health. A job paying the national minimum wage with a family to raise would be a pretty stressful place to be. As an employer do you pay the living wage ? If not why not ? Would sickness absence be indicative of a bigger problem, for example organisational culture if it was approaching double figures in a section or department (assuming it's not the tyranny of small numbers) ? Sickness absence also correlates with age. It's not just the population that is growing older, it's the same for the workforce. In my last job the average age of the workforce increased by 3.5 years every 8 years. With old age comes a range of conditions so perhaps not surprising that sickness absence rates rise in such circumstances.

If you take the cup half empty view that employees do take sickies or duvet days what do you do to spot it and take action ?

Maybe it's time to review your occupational health provision? Maybe review your attendance at work policy? Maybe build attendance management targets into managers performance plans ? Maybe revisit your stats and see what they are really telling you and what the trends are ?

Whatever you think of National Sickie Day , personally I think it's a media story, given the cost of sickness absence to any organisation that employs people maybe it's time to give your approach to managing attendance a medical ?


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