Why it pays to closely monitor employee absence

Recurrent absences or lateness can point towards bigger problems that companies must address.

Jon Gilbert

Nov 20th 2017

Why it pays to closely monitor employee absence

Whether it’s a common cold or a family issue, there are a multitude of reasons why employees may need time off work.

Recurrent absences or lateness can, however, point towards bigger problems that companies must address. According to the CIPD, one third of organisations have recorded an increase in stress-related absence in the last year. There is also a growing awareness of mental health related problems in the workplace, in fact, the NHS reports that one in every three sick notes handed out to patients in the last year were for mental health problems.

Close observation of absence trends can help flag if an employee is feeling any strain and allows for positive intervention before their issue intensifies. This is not only good for the individual, but it benefits the whole workforce too. It can help ascertain whether an employee is experiencing personal difficulties, and, it could also highlight an issue with workloads or management style, which can be addressed by management.

The ability to identify potential problems early is a real benefit for any organisation hoping to create a happy, healthy workforce. With these insights helping organisations to take steps to improve wellbeing in the workplace, it can result in major improvements in productivity and reduce the costs to any company.

The cost of absence

Unplanned absences have an financial cost for businesses which has been reported to be £29 billion in the UK annually. Research by the CIPD has also found that the average cost of absences to be £522 per employee in the private sector, rising to £835 in the public sector.

However, these costs of absences do not necessary reflect the true impact on business performance. Absence can have a ripple effect within the organisation too, as balanced workloads are suddenly disrupted. It can leave colleagues having to pick up the slack, which could potentially cause their own productivity levels to nosedive.

These financial costs can also be compounded by organisations needing to hire agency workers or pay for overtime, in order to maintain current levels of service  or to meet orders. Any steps that can be taken to reduce these costs would be beneficial from a profitability stand point.

The impact on productivity

Unplanned absences can be hard to predict, however, by using integrated time and attendance data, it is possible to see patterns emerge. For instance, the CIPD’s research has shown that the average number of absence days tend to be higher where manual labour is involved, and there is evidence that this is also true in larger organisations.

Using historic data, we can start to develop an understanding of the reasons and forecast potential absences in the future. When added to data used for planned periods of absence, it becomes possible for management to predict staff shortages, well in advance, allowing for them to plan their workload schedules accordingly. This can also reduce the strain on the remaining workforce during these periods and ensure companies are not paying a premium to maintain appropriate staffing levels.

Employees will always require time off, whether it is planned or not, however, by tracking the time and attendance data closely, businesses can get ahead, enabling them to adjust and flex their organisation accordingly.

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