· Features

Absence management can improve productivity and reduce unemployment figures

Unemployment is currently at 7.8% in the UK. It is important for businesses to address a number of issues to help reduce this figure or at least to avoid any continued increases in this figure.

Many business solutions, such as time, attendance and absence management software, can help businesses ensure staff retention through securing their job by increasing their productivity. This can lead to a growth in business and the need to recruit more staff, which can potentially generate a reduction in unemployment figures.

According to Katja Hall, Director of Employment Policy at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), employee absence directly cost the UK economy nearly £17bn in 2009, that equates to 27 million working days lost due to ‘sickies’.

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The average direct cost of absence was £596 per employee. Absence cost varies considerably by sector, with direct costs in the public sector 50% higher on average.

Loss of productivity is the most significant cost of absence, followed by the cost of sick pay itself and the cost of staff to cover for those who are absent. These cumulative costs of absenteeism in the UK reached £30bn last year.
It is important for employers to take a proactive approach to these issues and focus on the root cause behind the problem. Two thirds of employers believe that a great many absences for illness are not valid and according to UK Medical Director of Pfizer, Dr. Berkeley Phillips, the recent CBI report unites causes and consequences of absence together with an examination of proactive management strategies, which is currently more important than ever.
With cost being a significant consequence of absence, it is often difficult to manage this issue and retain employee acceptance. This often leaves employers unable to resolve the ongoing losses for fear of losing their staff support.

Instead of castigating employees due to their absence, employers should to try to understand these absences by focussing on what the fundamental reasons are which consequently empowers and encourages employees to be more productive.

Time and attendance solutions are a cost effective way for organisations and employers to not only monitor their staff productivity but also allow HR teams to work far more efficiently in focusing on important tasks rather than worrying about monitoring absence in the work place.

In turn employees that may be prone to ‘sickies’ will find it less appealing to be absent from work and notice the benefits of focusing on a good time and attendance record and potential increase in business for their employer.
BT is one company that advocates a managerial as well as technical approach to absenteeism. Aaron McCormack, CEO of BT Conferencing, stated that there are benefits to flexible working he comments: "By enabling employees to work in a way that best suits them, be it remotely or simply part-time, we're encouraging a healthy work-life balance," he says.

"This has a knock on effect of making employees more productive as they feel more engaged and supported by the business."
Businesses can prepare and pre-empt situations where staff may be tempted to pull a ‘sickie’ by having the correct time and attendance solutions in place to monitor and record staff attendance and absence trends enabling them to identify typical situations e.g. the World Cup, Saint Monday (the tradition of absenteeism on a Monday), winter months etc. when certain staff members may be prone to absence.

The Bradford factor is a useful method of calculation that takes the number and frequency of absences to produce a simple score based on their estimated impact on an organisation.
This approach is beneficial to the vast majority of employees who want to be appreciated in their work and feel as though their health is important to their employers in order to do their best and be productive.

Solutions to manage attendance should enable both the employee and the employer/manager to take responsibility and be made aware of their absence trends before they become a problem to the organisation.
Marc Clavereau, managing director, Bodet