Long-term sickness is an area often seen as something outside an employer’s control, but, more than ever, it can be influenced.
Just like short-term absence, there will of course be instances that can’t be prevented by workplace policy, but there are also many cases where effective planning, management and staff support can help highlight and avoid issues arising.
The CIPD’s eighteenth annual survey report examines trends in absence and health and wellbeing in UK workplaces, ‘Health and Well-Being at Work, 2018’, it was reported more than a fifth of organisations (22 per cent) now report mental ill health as the primary cause of long-term absence.
Wellbeing strategies play a fundamental role reducing these causes and cutting long-term absence. But to put those strategies in place relies on having a solid, evidence-based understanding of wellbeing in the workplace.
That means a couple of things: recording long term absence accurately in the first place and from that analysing and addressing underlying issues.
But there are other factors too, and we’ve put together a guide – here are a few of our recommended steps, which you can find out more about along with tips on how to get a better understanding of it and how best to manage employees with work-related stress, in our Long-Term Sickness Guide.
1. Share your policy: It’s important that your employees know exactly what your sickness policy is, that your HR team is up-to-speed with it and that it can be accessed by all employees at all times.
2. Train your managers: Ensure managers understand how to speak to someone who has an illness, especially mental health related, what is okay and not okay to say and when they may or may not contact that person.
3. Know the law: Keeping up-to-date with legal requirements about absenteeism (and all aspects of employment law) is essential. Ensure this information is shared within the business too.
4. Monitor absence rates and set triggers: Keeping good and thorough records of employee absence and communications allows you to identify trends, spot issues and, if it becomes necessary, ensure you have a paper trail and evidence to draw upon. Triggers will also allow you to be more proactive, intervene early and offer support before the issue grows.
5. Phased returns & adjustments: When a return to full hours or full duties feels too much for an employee a phased return may be the answer. Providing options for a phased return may be the key to enabling them to get back to work and ensure they don’t have to go off sick again. Small changes within the workplace or in the way an employee delivers their work may also make a big difference.
We know that the right HR technology, consultancy and manager training has a demonstrable impact on reducing long-term absence. So, if there’s an area you need a little extra help with, let’s talk.