Reducing absenteeism in the workplace

Reducing absenteeism in the workplace

Louise Angell explains the reasons for absenteeism in the workplace and discusses how employers can help to reduce it within their company.

The recent release of ONS Data analysing the increase in sick dates between 2021 and 2022 has unveiled those absences cost a total of £20.6bn. This is an additional cost of £3.7bn from the previously reported year!

Costs resulting from

  • Decreased productivity.
  • Deadlines are not met.
  • Calls are not returned.
  • Businesses have to pay SSP.
  • Some employers pay enhanced sick pay.
  • Poorly managed absence levels in the workplace or even worse, not managed at all.
  • Staff knowing there are no consequences and taking sickness as a form of extended annual leave.
  • A lack of reasonable adjustments for employees.

Reasons for absenteeism

There are many reasons an employee can take time off work, below are a few examples:

Short-term illnesses

These are the easiest to manage if you have a clear and upheld absence management process and policy that is observed by management. These are ad hoc days for a variety of reasons. We acknowledge that employees get ill, it is part of life, and you should take steps to support your employees. Step up the management of this when the absences become more frequent, and you start to see patterns. When was the last time you checked your absentee level?

Harassment or bullying at work

If an employee is experiencing either of these in their workplace, they are more likely to take time off than come to work and have to deal with this. Do you have an ‘open door’ environment where employees can feel comfortable talking to their line manager or another manager should they have concerns? Is your grievance policy clear and accessible for all staff? Is there a culture of ‘hushing’ employees up or does the culture encourage fair treatment and openness? Do you have a dignity at work policy, so employees feel comfortable talking to colleagues if they feel mistreated?  SmartPension.co.uk  calculate the cost of bullying-related absenteeism, turnover and lost productivity adds up to £13.5 billion every year. Have you taken steps to prevent it?

Mental Wellbeing

The Mental Health Foundation report that 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions. As an employer, you can offer your staff support such as Employee Assistant Programmes that gives them access to online or telephone support 24 hours a day. You can actively promote good mental wellbeing in your workplace by carrying out team events, open forums, activities, mindfulness etc. You can also make reasonable adjustments for some employees that would enable them to carry out their tasks thus being more productive for your business. Consider putting in place a Wellness Action Plan from MIND, this will enable you and the employee to work together. Also, consider appointing a mental health first aider in the workplace.

Long-term illness or chronic conditions  

An employee can still bring everything ‘to the table’ if they have a long-term illness or chronic condition. Being off work because of these circumstances can be worse for the employee and employer. Making reasonable adjustments for your employee could mean that they are able to continue coming to work, being productive, and managing their adapted lifestyle. Your business won’t miss out on years of experience or skills. Wouldn’t you rather have 100% greatness 75% of the time rather than 100% greatness 0% of the time? If you meet your employee halfway it will benefit you both.

Family issues  

Do you know what goes on behind closed doors? Of course you don’t, that’s private however if you have a good relationship with your employees, they are more likely to share a private matter that happens outside of work but impacts their attendance or even productivity. Knowing your staff enables you to offer solutions to problems you don’t know exist. Your business will ultimately benefit as the employee will be able to attend work without the stress of home and able to focus whilst there, thus being productive.

Commuting problems, public transport  

Employees may have a real struggle getting to work, maybe roadworks, public transport disruption, or general congestion. Sometimes it is easier to be ‘off sick’ than be late again. Speak to your employees. A simple change like starting earlier or later can make all the difference, they arrive at work not stressed and able to power on with their day in addition to not taking unnecessary time off and so missing deadlines.

Team/management issues  

If your business is not managing absences, you will find that employees will stay off because ‘they get away’ with it. It is important to ensure the whole business is onboard and fully understands the absence management process and policy. Senior managers should be checking lower management to ensure they are on top of all absence issues.

Authorised leave

Your employees will take time off to rest, recuperate and spend time with their loved ones. You may find some employees don’t want to take leave and maybe be paid for them at the end of the year. Employers have a legal health and safety obligation to ensure staff are rested and take breaks. You can make an employee take their annual leave by giving an adequate notice period of double the number of days’ notice for the time you want them to take. For example, if you want someone to take 5 days off you must give them 10 days’ notice.  You need to ensure that they don’t reach burnout. This will lead to sickness absence which you can’t predict, and it is a cost to your business.

How do you fix it?

You need a robust absence management system, policy and clear process. Your managers need to be trained in absence management and comfortable dealing with those awkward conversations, they’ll get this skill from training and experience.

Do they:

  • Have all the tools they need to implement and manage it?
  • Know how to manage short-term sporadic absences?
  • Know how to deal with capability and disabilities in the workplace?
  • Understand how to obtain medical consent or an occupational health assessment so you know how better to support the employee?

How can HPC help?

Outsourced HR

Our team of expert consultants can offer support within your business if you are experiencing high levels of absenteeism. We can help to put a structure in place that will help to manage absence within your business and reduce the cost that this has.

HR Software

Our HR software oneHR can help you to spot absence trends, capture sickness and manage absenteeism within your organisation. Our software helps to track all types of absence, create reports to gain key insights into absence trends and absence, upload absence documentation and much more. Read more about how oneHR can help absenteeism and other HR management within your business by clicking here.


We can offer training on how to manage absence to help reduce absenteeism within your workplace. If you are looking to upskill yourself or your managers to be able to handle absenteeism quicker and easier within your business get in touch with our team.

To find out more information or if you require any advice on managing and reducing absenteeism in your workplace get in contact with our team of experts.

T: 0330 107 1037

E: contact@hpc.uk.com

Twitter: @HPC_HRServices

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