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Line managers not given tools to tackle absences

Less than half (44%) of employers train their managers to handle short-term absence

Most employers are not giving line managers the tools they need to manage absence effectively, according to research from the CIPD and Simplyhealth.

The 2016 Absence Management Survey found that less than half (44%) of employers train managers to handle short-term absence – a drop from 52% in 2015. Meanwhile only 38% said managers are trained to manage long-term absence.

The survey also found decreases in the provision of tailored support for line managers. Just a fifth (20%) of employers said they provide tailored support to manage short-term absence, a drop from a quarter (26%) in 2015. Only a quarter (25%) currently offer tailored support for long-term absence (a drop from 34% in 2015).

Nearly three-quarters (72%) of employers reported that they have observed ‘presenteeism’ – people coming into work while unwell – within their organisation, and three in 10 (29%) say they’ve seen an increase in this in the last 12 months. Nearly half (48%) of organisations said they have taken steps to discourage presenteeism.

Jill Miller, research adviser at the CIPD, highlighted the importance of line managers. “Line managers have an essential role in organisations; acting as a link between the senior team and the wider workforce,” she said. “Their role can cover a vast range of areas, from identifying and resolving workplace issues to keeping employees engaged and supported. It therefore makes perfect sense that employers increasingly want them to be involved in managing absence levels, but unfortunately this survey shows that the training and support for them to do this effectively just isn’t there.”

Corinne Williams, head of HR at Simplyhealth, said businesses can't adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. “The balance of environmental, social and economic factors that affect workforce health will vary widely between individual employees, thus interventions to support wellness will depend on the size, shape and purpose of the organisation,” she explained.

“The key is in defining what underpins employee wellbeing at work and then embedding both strategic and day-to-day activities that reinforce these to help employees focus on their own wellness and increase the overall engagement and productivity of the workforce.”