How to Reduce Staff Absence in the Winter Months

BlogHR Advice Posted: Friday 4th November 2016 by

Colder weather and the pre-and-post-Christmas rush inevitably leads to an onset of staff absence in winter months, with illness and travel problems topping the list of reasons for absenteeism. The effect to your business can be severe, both financially, as well as on staff morale and productivity. Employee well-being and clear absence policies can help prevent staff sickness, whilst appropriate management of employee absences will reduce the burden on your business.

Follow our guide to ensuring the health of your business in the winter time.

Happy and healthy employees take less time off

Employers can go a long way towards encouraging the health and satisfaction of their employees. A small amount of effort and resource can pay off hugely in the long-run with reduced absences and increased productivity. Try these simple yet effective ideas:

Health and well-being campaigns: encourage good hygiene practice at work with posters and email reminders about how good respiratory, hand and food hygiene can help employees avoid colds and viruses, and the dreaded noro-virus. Promote the positive impact of a balanced diet, quality sleep, exercise and supplements, especially Vitamin D in the winter months.

Flu vaccinations: workplace vaccinations are a highly effective way of avoiding long-term absences caused by flu, with autumn being the optimal time to provide this to staff.

Stress Management: exhaustion and anxiety are not a good combination for avoiding sick days, with stress leave reaching its peak in the months before and after Christmas. Consider providing training on stress management for all staff, and ensure that there are practices in place to identify and support individuals most at need.

The power of communication

Communication is key when it comes to staff absenteeism, and your employees should be aware of their obligations and responsibilities through clear policies, both for sickness and adverse weather.

Sickness: ensure that staff understand the correct processes for reporting their absence on the day, including who to contact, by what method and what time. Staff should be able to advise whether it’s a short-term illness, or one that may require a longer period away from the office. Be aware of any requirements for medical notes, and understanding consequences of not following policy. Consider implementing a return-to-work interview for longer term absences to support your employee and help prevent re-occurrences.

Adverse weather: issues with public transport, inaccessible roads, nursery and school closures all cause havoc on an employee’s ability to get to work in the winter. Make sure you have an adverse weather policy, and that it clearly explains your company’s position on these absences. Staff are not automatically entitled to pay, however positive employee relations should be taken into account in such circumstances. Consider work-from-home options which will maintain staff productivity.

Absence Management: it’s just as important to have processes in place for managing the effect on your sick employee’s colleagues. Ensure that you immediately communicate the absence to those most likely to be affected, and involve them in suggestions and decision-making about whether temporary cover is required.

Lastly, make sure you institute a practice for recording and analysing sick days. This can provide valuable insight into the frequency of absence for individuals and departments and help you identify and tackle any underlying or emerging issues at an individual or departmental level.

For support on how to reduce staff absence in winter months, or for monitoring and controlling absence with HR technology, please call our HR team on 01952 288361.

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