Dealing with employee absence

1.8 million people are reported to suffer from an illness which they believe was caused by or made worse by their current or past work. 26.4 million working days are lost every year, 22.1 million due to work-related ill health and 4.4 million due to workplace injury.

Employee absences are both costly and disruptive. In any year, workplace absence typically averages 8.1 days per employee at a cost of £850 to the employer. Multiply this figure by the number of staff in your company, and take into account the disruption and lost work caused by other employees having to cover for absent colleagues, and you can see that absenteeism is a significant factor in damaging your profits.

Here are some practical steps to take.

Track the problem

Can you identify any particular problem areas? Are there patterns of absence? Does a particular department or employee have a below average record?

Focus on morale

Unhappy staff are more likely to take time off. A financial incentive for low absence is one solution but creating a friendly environment, where staff feel valued as part of a team and where flexible, family friendly policies are in place is likely to prove more effective at keeping absenteeism to a minimum.

Support sick employees

Long-term sickness must be handled sensitively. An employee's permission must be sought and given before applying for a medical report. Establish whether you should keep in touch so that the employee doesn't feel isolated. Consider referring them to an occupational health specialist. This can identify ways of helping them return to work and give you an indication of how long the absence is likely to last.

Have a clear policy - and enforce it

Make sure staff are well informed regarding sickness policy and procedures and that these are seen to be followed, and keep accurate records.

It is sensible to ensure that employers are aware of the right to request an independent medical assessment in the event of an employee taking substantial numbers of days off work. When recruiting you could check a potential employee's attendance record with their previous employer, and you may consider requiring all prospective staff to undergo a medical examination.

Make it company policy always to carry out a return to work interview. This may just let the employee know that their contribution was missed, or it could help identify underlying problems that will affect your management strategy. It may also deter staff from feigning illness.

Remember that disciplinary action for unacceptable absence must be distinguished from capability procedures related to illness. Employers need to be aware of the full range of conditions which come under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. In this case, reasonable adjustments must be made to help the employee return to work.

Employee absence is a serious issue for most small businesses, but there are steps you can take to minimise its impact. However, we recommend that you take professional advice before altering contracts or terms and conditions of employment.

Do please contact us for further advice on this matter.

SJD Accountancy

SJD Accountancy are the UK's largest specialist provider of fixed fee, Limited company accountancy services to contractors; we've been acting for contractors across the UK since 1992 and have more than 13,000 clients.

We are the only national specialist firm of contractor accountants with offices across the UK. SJD Accountancy also have more qualified staff than any other firm in our market with qualifications from the following major tax and accountancy bodies - ATII, ATT, AAT, ACCA, CA, ACA, FCCA, ACMA.

  • Unlimited face to face meetings. This is another unique service for a nationwide accountant to contractors, only SJD Accountancy offers unlimited face to face meetings across the UK - tax is complicated and sometimes only a meeting will do.
  • UK's Largest contractor accountants with more qualified staff. No call centres, no outsourcing, no automated call handling. Simply telephone, email or meet your own dedicated accountant* face to face.
  • Money back service guarantee. All your telephone calls and emails will be answered the same day or we will make a full refund of that months fee.
  • Outstanding reputation. We have won more awards for customer service and accountancy excellence than any other firm in our market, including: Best Accountant for Contractors, Accountant of the Year and Best Professional Service Team to name just a few.
  • All inclusive low cost fixed fee accountancy package which includes completion of accounts*, payroll bureau, dividends and corporation tax computations, personal taxation, free bookkeeping software, your own dedicated accountant* and all company returns for a fixed fee of £110 plus VAT per month.

If you have any questions about contracting or would like any further advice please call our new client services helpdesk on Freephone 0500 152500 / 01442 275789 or email: lisa.wood@sjdaccountancy.com.

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You may also find the following pages, guides and case studies useful:

*If you would like us to complete your company year end accounts we simply ask that you have been a client of SJD for one year or have made 12 monthly payments. All accountants are part or fully qualified.