The number of fit notes issued in the UK hit a record high last year – 10.4 million. In part, the increase has been attributed to the economic crisis and also to the impact of the pandemic, which has led to more stress-related absences.
If you’ve been noticing increased absences, it might be having negative effects on productivity, as well as increasing costs. It is important to manage them proactively.
Begin by ensuring you have a robust absence policy, so expectations are clear and phoney sickness days are discouraged. The HR Dept can help you implement a comprehensive policy, as well as introducing return-to-work interviews and measuring tools. For long-term absences, we can work with occupational health therapists to plan adjustments and phased returns.
If stress or anxiety is at play you’ll want to be supportive, but it’s not yours or your managers’ jobs to act as counsellors.
You can bring in tools like the Bradford Factor (see article below) to underpin your enforcement of absence policy objectively. You may also find employee assistance programmes (EAPs) good value for the business. They provide expert, independent support services for mental health and other issues like debt advice – taking the burden away from you.
Check that your culture encourages a healthy work-life balance. Both our physical and mental health are heavily impacted by work-life balance. Ensuring that workloads are evenly distributed, and that staff know when to switch off, will reduce the risk of stress.
In the face of so much absence a robust approach is important – not least so that those who do show up every day don’t get burnt out covering for persistently absent colleagues. If you’d like support, just get in touch.
First published in July/August 2023