Are managers adequately equipped to deal with absence?

With an average business cost of £522 per employee per year, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the business case for tackling absence at work is clear.

Policies that help managers understand how to deal with employees who are absent, guide them through the process of establishing when they will return and dealing with return to work meetings are essential. Although sickness absence policies that address the return-to-work process are not a legal obligation, they can help establish expectations, roles and responsibilities.

The responsibilities of both managers and employees should be clearly set out, including processes for seeking medical advice when relevant. Absence policies should also outline the circumstances under which an employer may consider dismissing an employee who is on long-term sick leave, along with how cases that relate to disability are managed.

According to research, a third of workers who had a four-week or longer absence in the past five years said they had failed to receive regular communication or support from their employers while off work.

Phased return to work can also help returners cope better with their job demands as well as considering short-term redeployment.

In cases where there’s been a significant change to an employee’s ability to conduct their role due to illness, injury or disability, there’s a legal requirement under the Equality Act 2010 to review workplace risk assessments and, if necessary, amend them to identify new hazards. Having sound processes in place and training managers to communicate regularly with absent workers will reduce the extent of absence in the workplace which will inevitably reduce its cost.

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