How To Manage Employee Sickness

Employee Sickness

We’ve been receiving a lot of queries recently regarding employee sickness. Therefore, we thought we’d detail how to effectively use absence management and how your line managers can support employees.

Firstly, what is absence management? Absence management is the accurate measurement of the absence of employees due to sickness.

There are various ways in which you can measure time lost due to sickness absence. You should decide which measure or measures best suit its circumstances. This is because different measures of absence focus on different aspects of time lost to sickness absence.

There are four main recognised ways of measuring time lost to sickness absence:

  • the lost time rate,
  • the frequency rate,
  • the individual frequency rate and;
  • the Bradford factor

The Lost Time Rate

The lost time rate is the measure most commonly used. It shows the percentage of total time available that has been lost due to any type of absence during a certain period of time.

It is calculated by dividing the total absence in hours or days in the period by the possible total in hours or days in the period, and then multiplying by 100.

Frequency Rate

The frequency rate measurement shows the average number of periods of absence per employee expressed as a percentage. It gives no indication of the length of each sickness absence period and no indication of employees who have taken more than one period of absence.

It is calculated by dividing the number of spells of absence in the period by the number of employees in the period, and then multiplying by 100.

Individual Frequency Rate

The individual frequency rate measurement shows the number of individual employees who have been absent during a period of time expressed as a percentage. As with the frequency rate, it gives no indication of the length of each sickness absence period.

It is calculated by dividing the number of employees taking one or more spells of absence during a period by the number of employees in the period, and then multiplying by 100.

Bradford Factor

The Bradford Factor identifies persistent short-term absence for individual employees as it gives extra weight to the number of periods of sickness absence taken per employee. It is therefore a useful measure of the organisational disturbance caused by this type of continual absence. The Bradford score = S x S x D, where S is the number of spells of absence in 52 weeks taken by an employee and D is the number of days of absence in 52 weeks taken by that employee.

The Bradford factor can be a useful measure of sickness absence for your business to use when setting absence triggers so that they can investigate absence when it reaches a certain trigger level.

So, Which Method Should You Choose?

You need to look at what information each one provides and decide which measurement, or combination of measurements, is the most suitable.

A small employer may decide that it needs to use only one or two methods of measuring sickness absence. As using more would make the process too complicated and time consuming. A much larger employer may wish to use all four methods to provide it with all the information that it requires to manage the sickness absence of a large number of employees.

The choice of method or methods of measuring employee sickness will depend on the size of the business. As well as the extent of the problem with sickness absence and the resources that the employer has to manage it.

We will help you choose which method is best so don’t hesitate to contact us.

Absence Triggers & Line Management

When you have chosen how to measure absences, you can then set absence triggers.

These are the points at which a defined level of sickness absence has been reached. This should then trigger an alert to the relevant line manager ensuring that the absence can be investigated and managed.

Line managers have an essential role to play in the absence management process. From reporting absence to ensuring that employees are completing all relevant sickness forms when they return to work after a period of sickness. They also need to act consistently when an absence trigger has been met, whether the appropriate step is reminding the employee of the absence policy or holding an absence review meeting.

Line Managers can use absence patterns to identify unwanted, repeated behaviours. For instance, consistently taking the last Friday of the month off.

Line managers will need adequate training to develop the skills required to manage absence effectively. As well as have potentially difficult conversations around employee sickness. Need help with training? Check out our courses.

It is important to remember to apply a human aspect to all absence management. If you have multiple employees calling in sick; is there a business culture issue, are employees quiet-quitting? Be sure to use line managers to investigate this thoroughly and sensitively. Also, if an employee is continually sick be sure to check in with them. Are they okay? Is there anything you can do as a business to help?

As always, if you have any queries please do reach out to the team.

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