For organisations of all sizes and in all sectors, absence management is an important step in maintaining efficiency and quality across the business. In order to do this effectively in the social care sector, we must consider the following:
Having this plan in place will mean that line managers can act on absence triggers as soon as they are flagged, enabling them to discuss any issues with individual employees that need to improve their attendance at work and identify any absences that are not genuine, all of which has been proven to reduce the overall absence rate within the organisation.
Before we can effectively manage absence, we first need to establish how we will accurately measure and monitor it. There are various ways in which employers can measure the impact of absence and each organisation should decide which method suits them best, but there are a couple of methods which commonly work well for most businesses.
This method shows what percentage of time has been lost due to absence in a given time period. It is calculated as follows: (Total absence / Total possible time) x 100
If the total absence in a 1,000 hour period was 50 hours, the lost time rate is:
(50/1000) x 100 = 5%
This method shows the average number of absence periods per employee. It is calculated as follows: (Number of absence periods/Number of employees) x 100
If there were 25 periods of absence in a 4 week period during which time 150 staff were employed, the absence frequency rate is:
(25/150) x 100 = 16.67%
Other more complex methods of measuring absence include the Individual Absence Frequency Rate and the Bradford Factor.
In order to choose which method/s is most suitable, the employer should seek to strike a balance between the time required to manage the process and the importance of monitoring absence to the business.
The organisation will need to decide who will have responsibility for gathering the absence information and who will calculate the absence measurements.
Some businesses in the social care sector will have a HR department to assist with this whereas others may not. Some may have an online HR platform and again, others may not and will need to record the information manually. But however responsibilities are split, it’s vitally important that the information is recorded accurately, in a timely and consistent manner.
Absence triggers are designed to alert a line manager that absence within the organisation or their team, has reached a defined level which should be investigated. Employers can also use absence triggers as part of performance management and this can in some cases commence disciplinary action, depending on the circumstances.
The organisation will need to decide what a suitable absence trigger will be and this will depend on a number of factors.
As a starting point, the social care sector industry average for sickness in 2019 was 2.9%* or 4.7 days per person, but of course this has since increased significantly due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In order to utilise absence triggers effectively, the organisation will need to have a trigger system which will flag when employee’s reach the defined absence level. This can either be an online platform or manual records such as a spreadsheet.
It’s important to remember that absence can be sensitive and individual circumstances such as disability, an ongoing health issue or pregnancy should be considered, and conversations should be approached appropriately.
It is therefore sensible for organisations to also set absence targets for their employees that are broadly aligned with the absence triggers but it is down to the employer to decide what is acceptable for their business.
Social care sector Line Managers have the most hands-on role to play in absence management so it’s vital that the data they collect is accurate and timely, and that they understand how their input impacts on the wider strategy. They will therefore need training and guidance on the process and support with implementing it where necessary.
In order to make best use of this plan it’s important that the organisation communicates the absence targets and triggers to its employees in a clear and concise manner. In the social care sector this could be achieved by distributing a letter or an email and by holding a team meeting where possible.
Absence management can be positioned positively to employees, as a method of safeguarding their health and wellbeing and as an efficient way of alerting management to any potential support requirements a valued employee may have, rather than it being a penalty or pressure point for employees that are genuinely not fit for work.
When used and communicated effectively, absence triggers can act as a deterrent for fraudulent sick leave.
*Office for National Statistics
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