Regular short term sickness absence can be enormously costly and disruptive to a small business, and is in some ways more difficult to deal with than long-term absence, as the disruption is unpredictable and happens with no notice.

As with any employee problem in your small business, prevention is better than cure, so here are five things you can to do try and prevent short term absence problems causing you difficulties. Some of these are ‘carrot’ and some are ‘stick’, and finding the right balance between the two will depend on your specific circumstances and the extent of any problem you have

1. Flexibility

Allow flexibility for emergency family leave, medical appointments and other personal issues if you can, this may reduce the number of sickness absences, as well as earning you vital ‘goodwill’ back from staff who feel as though their work-life balance and personal lives are valued and prioritised. Similarly you could allow homeworking for days when staff might have deliveries or work being done on their home, if this is possible in their role.

2. Workplace factors

Consider whether the environment your staff work in is conducive to staying healthy and accident-free. Make sure health and safety recommendations are followed to the letter and that staff are fully trained in how to protect themselves and others in the workplace. Where there are accidents, incidents or near-misses in the workplace, make sure you learn from these and put in place measures to prevent recurrence.

3. Long hours culture

Make sure a culture of presenteeism doesn’t develop in your business, and keep an eye on out-of-hours working such as emailing at evenings and weekends. It is important employees can ‘switch off’ from work and getting that vital rest time helps reduce short term absence.

4. Support employee wellbeing

Prioritising employee wellbeing can certainly have an impact on your short term absence rates among other things, so look into initiatives to help this, they don’t have to be expensive or only suitable for bigger organisations. Have a read of some ideas about how a small business can support employee wellbeing here.

5. Hurdles

Put in hurdles for those contemplating duvet days. It’s not about penalising genuinely sick employees, but making ‘throwing a sickie’ a bit more difficult and uncomfortable for those who don’t really need to stay off work.

For example make sure employees have to ring and actually speak to their manager if they are off sick. If all they have to do is send a text or email, or ring when they know a voicemail will be on, it’s more tempting for those who perhaps could come into work if they were so inclined.

Don’t have guaranteed sick pay. Of course if you already have contractual set amounts of company sick pay in place, you need to adhere to these, but if you don’t, the prospect of losing a day’s pay is a real disincentive for staff who are wondering whether they would like a duvet day.

Similarly, you may want to revisit allowing staff to use holiday for sickness absence if you do this. Although they do obviously lose holiday, there’s no immediate negative impact as a result of the sick day if they know they can just take it out of their annual leave.

 

If you’d like some help in preventing a short term absence problem developing in your small business, do get in touch.