71% of small businesses report high levels of staff absenteeism

With concerningly high levels of staff absenteeism across the UK, expert HR consultant, Mandy Fitzmaurice, shares insights into managing staff absenteeism within a small business.

According to polls, 71% of small businesses report that high levels of staff absence is having a negative impact on profitability and team morale.  A significant problem for small business owners and managers, Mandy Fitzmaurice the managing director of Bournemouth-based consultancy Purple HR, offers some advice on how to tackle the thorny issue of absence.

It’s a hard fact that staff absence costs the UK economy £15 billion a year, so clawing back even a small % of this back could be the difference to an organisation ending their year in the black, rather than the red.  This is particularly true for small businesses, where the cost of sick pay and the impact on the team’s workload is particularly difficult to manage.

Mandy, said:

“Unwarranted absences are like a nasty infection. If the reasons for absence aren’t genuine and not addressed, it sends the message to others that it’s ok to stay in bed and take a day off. As well as losing money, it can affect your ability to deliver a good service to your customers and also lose the good people who get fed up of frequently having to cover for absent colleagues.”

Managers have a duty to find out why someone has been away from work.  Back-to-work interviews, even for the shortest periods of absence, are a must. They discourage those who maybe ‘surfing the duvet’ as well as highlighting any potential issues such as bullying, overwork and of course, genuine health conditions that require your intervention and support.  Whilst it can be difficult to prove that someone is not genuinely off sick, you wont know unless you speak to the employee in person, keep good records and monitor any trends so that you can identify problems quickly.

Mandy, comments:

“Your employment policies and staff handbook should leave no doubt about why punctuality and good attendance is critical to your business. Your policies should clearly explain the procedure for reporting absence and consequences of poor attendance.”

Mandy, continues:

“If short-term absence persists, have an informal discussion, be clear about your expectations and give the employee the chance to improve and explain the consequences if they don’t i.e that formal disciplinary action may be taken, which, if it continues could lead to dismissal.  There are strict legal rules about dismissing staff, so you need to make sure your Absence and Disciplinary procedures explain the process in clear and unambiguous language and that everyone is briefed on them.  If you’re in any doubt, don’t take chances and seek professional HR advice.”

The simple message is that you can deal with absence problems, but you have to do it in the right way.  Purple HR are available to offer advice and support, as well as offering a fully outsourced HR solutions service especially for small businesses within the BH postcode at just £300 per month +VAT. For more information about Purple HR, visit www.purplehr.co.uk.