Compassionate absence management can 'significantly impact' on employer brand, report finds

David Woods , 10 Jan 2012


A compassionate approach to absence management can have a “significant impact” on an employer’s reputation, according to the initial findings of a forthcoming report commissioned by Ellipse, the specialist group risk insurer.

Sick Notes, by Ellipse in association with Cary Cooper, distinguished professor of organisational psychology and Health at Lancaster University, found substantial majorities of workers and line managers alike say they believe absence management is an important factor in the way they view their employer and its ability to attract and retain talent.

Seven in ten (72%) workers say the way a company treats sick employees has an impact on their feelings towards the company. This sentiment is most keenly felt by younger people, with 85% of 18 to 24 year olds saying it is important, compared with 63% of those over 55. A mere 15% of employees say it has no impact at all.

At the same time, the vast majority of line managers (80%) agree that absence management affects the organisation's ability to attract and retain and employees.

Commenting on the initial findings, Cooper, said: "After asking both employees and line managers for their views, the responses lead to the conclusion that effective absence management is highly valued. Winning a reputation for looking after people will benefit employers in the war for talent.

"Increasingly, employees expect their employers to invest in their wellbeing and it is no longer a 'nice to have', particularly at a time when there is less headroom to increase salaries.

"Employees want to feel confident their employers have their best interests at heart. Businesses should be seeking to embed wellbeing and absence management in their culture, regardless of their size, ambitions or industry."

The Sick Notes report will be published in full on 1 February.

Research was conducted from 29 November to 6 December 2011 with 250 line managers in SMEs employing up to 300 people and 1,003 employees of SMEs employing up to 300 people.


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Knowledge is best...

Peter Marno 10 Jan 2012

As is often the case this article is common sense. All employees react more favourably to compassionate rather than harsh handling. The keys to absence management - whether sickness or otherwise - is for managers to be trained and for them to know what is causing absences and, for that, they will need a good absence management system that will allow them to make appropriate decisions at an early stage.


Paul Myers 10 Jan 2012

We have introduced effective wellbeing schemes and trained line managers in sickness management Since transfer from Public to Private sector 3 years ago, sickness levels from 15.75% to running target this year 0.75% The investment in wellbeing schemes is cost effective

Valuing staff

Matt Scrimshire 11 Jan 2012

An interesting article and I await the full report as this further highlights how valuable well-being strategies are and that absence management needs to be held in higher regard. Many HR Managers I speak to only see these areas as a cost to the business. Good comments from Peter and Paul too, that is some success story Paul. This ultimately comes back to the old adage that you can't manage what you don't measure.

The Issue Is Bigger Than Just Absence.

Peter A Hunter 17 Jan 2012

This issue brings into sharp definition the effect of the way that a manager behaves has on his workforce. If when an employee is absent they are grilled about what they were doing or where they were then that employee will be made to feel guilty by that management behaviour, even if there was a perfectly valid reason for their non attendance. Goethe said that if we treat people the way we expect them to be, that is what they will become. By treating the individual as if they are untrustworthy Goethe is telling us, that is what they will become. It is not just a nice thing to do, to believe the best in people, it is a management behaviour that creates the environment where they will give their best. The manager who manages absences badly actually creates the environment where the number of absences increases. In the same way, the manager who manages performance badly creates the environment in which his employees cannot perform. Peter A Hunter www.BreakingtheMould.Co.UK

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