Attendance Management

Attendance targets for Absence Management

Setting Absence Targets
Setting Absence Targets

Research by XpertHR, looking into techniques for absence management, polled 237 employers and found that just 44% of organisations set collective targets for absence levels – yet eight organisations out of 10 also believe having them in place had been successful in dealing with absence management.

  • Public-sector organisations were the most likely to set targets (69%), compared with private-sector-services companies (30%) and the manufacturing and production sector (61%).
  • Absence triggers used in attendance management procedures were more likely to result in employers beginning a dialogue with employees than resorting to disciplinary procedures or even dismissal.
  • Eight employers out of 10 polled used absence triggers as part of their absence management system, and only one in 10 did not believe their organisation used the triggers effectively. Triggers were most likely to be based on the number of absences taken by an employee (used by 75%), with exactly one in five using the Bradford Formula.  For information on what the Bradford factor is, go to Bradford Index Video
  • Smaller organisations were the least likely to use absence triggers, with two-thirds (66%) of employers with fewer than 250 employees using them, far fewer than those with between 250 and 999 employees (88%) or those employing 1,000 or more (also 88%).

Most of the HR respondents in organisations that used triggers believed they were using them effectively. One in four believed triggers had been “very successful” in helping the organisation manage absence. A further 65% said they had been “fairly successful”.

The research also cited the example of a large local council with 6,000 employees that had introduced revised trigger points in April 2010, at which point the average total days lost through sickness absence was 11.6 days. The following year this had reduced to 7.4 days.

Authors opinion:

Using trigger factors and setting targets is a good strategy for managers who lack training and confidence. However, the more experienced look at each person/absence and deal with the situation according to the persons’ history/type of illness (cancer or a cold)/motivation/family circumstances etc.

Absence is not necessarily about illness but is influenced by so many external factors that the triggering control systems such as Bradford cannot cover everything and treat everyone fairly.  People are not the same and have different personalities, genetics, backgrounds, upbringings, etc; a blanket approach, whilst dealing with everyone the same does not take into account real situations.

Employees/workers with poor attendance records who work within these policies very soon learn the ‘rules’ and fly just below the radar of ever being interviewed/disciplined. Bradford works best where there are inexperienced managers and a culture of poor attendance.

Effective Attendance Management

The best way to manage absence on a company scale is for line managers to have proper training in managing absence.  Taking into account signs of stress/mental health disorders/drug and alcohol misuse/bullying/etc and referral processes.  Managers also need to be able to understand and manage the fit note and to help employees come back to work early after long-term illness.  Most importantly other reports have shown that the best way to combat absence levels in larger organisations is to publish department figures in internal documents where peer pressure/competitiveness amongst managers works its magic and figures start to fall – or what about linking absence figures to bonus payments?

Or what about taking on Occupational Health to determine what is really sickness and what absence is the culture of the organisation.

Do you have a view on this?

Further Resources

HSE Guidance on dealing with absence

April 21, 2013

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