A ‘Sick Notes’ report by Ellipse, the group risk insurer, and Professor Cary Cooper, CBE, a world leading authority on workplace issues, has found that the current Absence Management approach is creating welfare, management and productivity issues in the workplace.
The report is based on quantitative research amongst workers and managers and examines how changes in the workplace and modern technology require a rethink of absence management. The research shows that employers are failing to deal with the full risks that employee absence and ill health bring to the workplace. ‘Sick Notes’ was commissioned to mark the launch of InteractPlus, Ellipse’s product integrating disability income protection and absence management.
The report shows that sick employees are getting ‘lost’ in the system with illnesses being allowed to worsen into chronic conditions and line managers are being burdened with responsibilities they often do not have the time to handle properly. 70% of employers have been shown to rely on non-HR personnel to handle employee sickness, with 45% of managers admitting that the staff responsible for absence management are possibly not the best equipped to deal with it. Nearly half of managers (41%) said the company absence procedure is not followed.
Ellipse and Professor Cooper presented five steps to remove the chaos out of absence management and utilise technology to detect and address the situation early:
1. Ensure you have a clear and simple procedure
2. Use technology to monitor trends
3. Maintain proactive contact with the employee
4. Consider external expertise
5. Foster a culture of employee engagement and consider flexible working
Professor Cary Cooper, Distinguished Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University, commented on the research: “Affecting all employers and all but the very hardiest workers, illness is just a fact of working life but it’s not always an inevitability.
“We should be trying to prevent long-term absence as much as possible and we can do that in a few ways. Firstly, by looking at ways of flexible working to help those who are able to work but perhaps not able to come into the office or work set hours. Secondly, we need to encourage employees to not feel obliged to come in to work when they are ill as we know a culture of presenteeism is damaging.
“In the longer term employers can address absence by ensuring that they do not instil a culture of long working hours, which ultimately lead to demoralized staff and increased sickness, and by training line managers to be fully able to deal with absence management rather than leaving it to chance.
“A few small actions can make a big difference to absence and I urge employers to ask themselves honestly whether their current process is fit for purpose.”