Missing from work – only reported a week later!

It is normal that employees report their absence as soon as possible or even the next day. I would suggest that it should be normal for a line manager to contact staff if they have not heard from them the day they are expected at work – especially if it is known that they live alone. To leave it for a week is unthinkable.

This is a question I’m sure many HR professionals will be asking. Managing absence is high on the agenda of small businesses, simply because it is known that absence has a major impact on colleagues, clients or customers and, of course, the organisation’s bottom line.

Good HR practice requires line managers to monitor absence as part of their management responsibilities. The odd day off work can be disruptive. Holidays need to be booked in advance so that the work can be planned. Statutory time off includes dependant and parental leave, time off for public duties and other family leave. Annual holiday entitlement is 28 days, the annual Absence Management Survey 2011 by the CIPD found that the average absence level is 7.7 days per employee per year (with variations in the different sectors) – so before any other absences a small business must factor in approximately 35 days per year.

The survey found that two-thirds of working time is lost to absence due to short-term duration i.e. up to 7 days. The cost of absence in the public sector per employee is £800 compared with £446 in private services. Does this mean that processes are not that good in the public sector, or that the private sector is better at managing absence?

I am well aware that absences, mainly of short-term duration, are not reported by managers to their HR administrator which means that accurate records cannot be kept; the cost of absence cannot be measured; but more importantly, lack of following good process and undertaking good management practice can cause issues such as that related to the case of Gareth Williams. Would things have been different if his absence was reported earlier?

These are my 5 top tips for managing absence in a small business:

1. Draft clear absence from work policies which include when, what and how to notify absence – any absence

2. Ensure managers know that it is their responsibility to implement the policies 3. Continuously train managers and supervisors – include how and when to contact staff who do not notify

4. Implement return to work interviews and ensure absence is reported and recorded

5. Communicate to staff, then communicate again … and again.