How to deal with staff absenteeism

29 April 2005 by
How to deal with staff absenteeism

Statistics from the Forum of Private Business show that dubious staff absences can cost small businesses £1,618 per employee each year, and more than 10% of the small business workforce were off sick for more than seven days at a time last year. So what measures can you take to minimise the number of days employees are absent?

Enforce strict absence procedures

In order for you to deal effectively with absenteeism, staff should be very clear about your company policy.

A staff handbook is an ideal way to state policies. Areas such as holidays, sickness and absenteeism should be included and clearly outlined.

The handbook or procedures should cover the following:

  • What people should do when they are ill, such as who they should notify
  • When they should notify you about any illness
  • When they need to provide a doctor's note
  • What they should they do on their return
  • How much sickness time in terms of days is acceptable in any year and what happens if this is exceeded

Documenting the number of days of absence and reasons for this absence on a form is also a good idea, as it will allow you to monitor the situation effectively and identify any potential problems. It's important to identify problems early on so that the situation can be nipped in the bud, rather than allowing it to escalate.

If processes are in place and are well documented and communicated, managers are able to act on correct information rather than hunches or impressions.

Identify the reasons for absences

When an employee returns to work after a long period of absence, a "return to work interview" should be carried out. This will ensure you are taking an interest in your employees' welfare, and will make them realise their absence has been noted.

Consider incentives to motivate staff

Causes for absence are most usually linked to employees' dissatisfaction with their jobs or an unstimulating work environment. Consider offering incentives that will encourage your employees to turn up and be ready for work.

For example, you could offer extended lunch hours on agreed days, promote healthy eating or even offer those who have a good employment record an extra day of holiday each year. This can seem like extra costs to take on, but it could save you more in the long run. If you offer sick pay, consider whether your scheme is motivational.

Think about introducing flexible working or policies that are family-friendly - recent research has highlighted that this can be effective with employees.

However, as with sickness absence, be sure to monitor stringently the effectiveness of any incentives you put in place.

This is an edited version of an article from businessGO, the fortnightly newsletter from


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