March 15th, 2017 / Insight posted in Blog

Do you know the real reason your employees are taking time off?

According to the Office for National Statistics, the sickness absence rate for 2016 was equivalent to 4.3 days per worker, the lowest since 1993 when it was 7.2 days. But if you’re not sure of the actual reason your employees are taking sick leave, your business could be showing a higher than average absence rate.

Recently, a client was concerned that a number of employees had been off sick. In itself this was not unusual, but the reasons given during return to work interviews were that they needed time off to care for a sick relative or dependent.

Research conducted by MetLife Employee Benefits found that 45% of employers do not have agreed policies in place to cope with the care of dependents, death of an employee or to support employees who are diagnosed with a terminal illness. However, 92% of employers now offer flexible, working with 24% providing access to bereavement helplines.

So what are employees’ basic rights? All employees are allowed time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependent (spouse, partner, grandchild, parent or someone they care for). There is no set amount of time as it is on a case by case basis, and there is no obligation for an employer to pay employees for this time off. Any rules around this should be made clear and contained in the employment contract or employee handbook.

Return to work interviews and having robust sickness absence reporting procedures do not have to be onerous on employers. Making sure employees phone in and actually speak to someone rather than allowing them to text or email in has been proven to reduce sickness absence levels, as well as the correct reason for absence being recorded.

Conducting return to work interviews can also reduce potential sickness levels as employees know they will have to with their manager and explain the reason they were not at work. It also gives managers the tools to explore more serious sickness absence issues and deal with things at an early stage before they get out of hand. Implementing these two simple procedures could be all your business needs to tackle any absence related issues you may be facing.