learn about absence management​

reduce the impact that sickness absence has on your organisation

the most common sickness absence causes

The average UK business is losing 5.8 days per employee due to sickness absence. The four leading causes are: mental health (stress, anxiety or depression); minor illness (e.g. colds); musculoskeletal (e.g. back pain); and workplace injuries (e.g. trips and falls).

CIPD 2020.

average no. days lost per employee

mental health
minor illness
workplace injuries

Cut the cost of absence, protect your organisation, empower your colleagues

How to create proactive policy

Create absence management policy that actually reduces the impact of absence on your business. We want to share our experience with you, here’s how to create successful absence management policy…

Evidence shows us that workplace sickness absence policies are effective when clearly communicated and properly implemented.

key elements to a succesful sickness absence policy

Your sickness absence management policy should include the following elements:

codification of process - let's put it in writing

Workplaces should aim to put processes in writing where possible. If no formal process can be implemented, policies should ensure that procedures are clear and accessible in relation to both reporting and managing sickness. 

Sickness absence policy should contain details of contractual sick pay terms and their relationship with statutory sick pay, along with explanations of the notification process (i.e. who and when employees need to notify of their absence).

Similarly, you need to outline the system of measurement used to trigger reviews of attendance behaviour (e.g. Bradford Factor) and explain when fit notes are required from the employee’s GP.

Reasonable adjustments may be made to facilitate the return to work for an employee with health conditions, where possible.

Communication plays a central role in the return to work process. Employers are recommended to keep in touch with employees who are on sickness absence. Make sure that any and all communication with the employee is relevant – take an empathetic rather than sympathetic perspective.

Pay close attention to the way in which you communicate with the employee, paying close attention to their individual circumstances.

critical to successful absence management

culture, leadership, and communication buy-in

Research shows that the physical and psychological demands of a job can contribute to higher levels of sickness absence as well as higher rates of disability.

Inspirational leadership has been linked to lower rates of short-term sickness absence, however it’s important to remember that not all absence is bad, and genuine absence should not be discouraged.

Buy-in from senior leadership is critical for tackling presenteeism, as their role involves the creation of a culture where working when ill is not encouraged.

Over a third of organisations report that leaders model behaviour by taking time off when sick, however 3 in 10 do not actively seek to identify the causes of presenteeism in their organisations.

Similarly, leaveism has been observed in two-thirds of organisations, with half observing employees taking work home with them.

Leaveism should be discouraged by fostering a culture that focuses on output rather than input.

data drives strategy


Data should be a fundamental part to an organisation’s sickness absence and health and wellbeing strategy. Collecting non-identifiable data can allow the organisation to monitor trends, such as duration and frequency of absence, cause, and alternative factors (e.g. job role, salary band, department, location, workplace). 


Using this data, areas of intervention can be identified to support the health and wellbeing of employees. The importance of using data to inform strategy and to measure successful policy and practice is critical to an organisation’s long-term success.

knowing what to do, and when


Timely return to work is beneficial to both employer and employee. The longer an employee is absent, the greater it is that they will not return to work.

Interventions are typically viewed as changes to workplace or equipment, changes in work design and organisation, changes in working conditions or work environment, and involvement of the worker and supervisor.

Interventions (proactive and reactive) are highly varied in their design and it is imperative organisations monitor the effectiveness of their implemented interventions, so as to reduce harm to employees, as well as waste valuable resources.

Critically, early intervention is essential to facilitating successful and timely return to work. Employees should be made aware of any early intervention services that are available to them (e.g. vocational rehabilitation, counselling, or an employee assistance programme), with awareness being shown of the confidential nature and remit of such services.

Where such services are not available, signposting to the employee’s GP should be made.

Interventions must be suitable to the condition that is facing the employee and discussions should occur (possibly including the assistance of an occupational therapist) between the line manager and the employee to overcome barriers to return to work.

equip line managers with the tools they need to manage absence

line managers play an important role in managing absence

Line managers often take primary responsibility for managing short-term absence in two-thirds of organisations. Recent research shows that 40% of line managers also take primary responsibility for long-term absence.

We have seen a shift over time, with short-term sickness absence being devolved from HR functions. 

The likelihood of an employee’s return to work after 4 weeks diminishes rapidly, with one in five not returning to their place of work.

It is also reported that, despite this, a quarter of organisations do not provide training to line managers on the management of sickness absence.

It is therefore critical that line managers are provided with training and resources on the management of sickness absence.

We do sickness absence management properly

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