The best ways to handle sick leave

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1. Develop a robust attendance management policy; among other things it needs to include a notification procedure so employees know what to do if they are sick and can’t come to work.

2. Measure your absence levels; the lost time calculation is a favourite and is the number of working days lost over the number of working days available expressed as a percentage. If you don’t measure, you won’t know how you are doing!

3. Monitor and benchmark. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development absence management survey 2011, cites the average absence as 3.4 per cent so if your absence levels are below 3 per cent, you are doing well.

4. Involve your managers/supervisors in the absence management process; they must be at the forefront of all discussions and have direct access to absence statistics.

5. Your most effective tool is for line managers to carry out a return to work discussion with the employee after every absence, regardless of its length.

6. Consider use of ‘trigger points’ that will activate a more formal process if intermittent absence rates are unacceptable.

7. Deal compassionately with longer term absence (four weeks plus), keep in appropriate contact with the employee, meet with them, find out the prognosis, what the likelihood is of them returning to work and so on.

8. Be clear of any potential disability the employee may have due to their long-term absence, so seeking medical information is key.

9. The Olympics 2012 – whilst great for the UK, it may give us all a headache if employees say they are ‘sick’ whilst really they may want to watch an exciting event. Discuss with your employees how you can manage their expectations in terms of time off to watch popular events, or consider how you might be able to facilitate event watching at work.

10. Employee well-being can help reduce absence levels in the first place. Consider workloads, work life balance, communicate with and engage employees.