Absence management goals

After salary, absence is the second largest cost to employers. Every company should set absence management goals and monitor them regularly to make sure that this significant cost does not get out of hand. Absence management works on three levels, from the individual to the organisation, so goals should be set for each area:

  1. Individual absence records
  2. Line managerial actions
  3. Organisational absence level

Absence goals for individual employees

The ultimate goal for individual employees is of course no absence at all. Where possible, the employer should do what they can to help employees achieve this target. It can be argued that 80% of absence is unnecessary. In a fit-for-work pilot scheme in Leicester, 78% of absence was not due to the medical complaint but because of other workplace or personal issues. Most long-term medical conditions do not require complete abstinence from work. After the acute flare up, working in modified or even full duties is often possible and even helps the recovery. To work toward the zero absence goal, the company should have defined a trigger system:

Set triggers for personal levels of absence that require managerial follow up e.g. 3 spells in 6 months or continuous absence of more than 2 weeks.


A return to work facilitation framework

Consider putting together some guidelines to line managers on how to facilitate quicker returns to work. Each company has a different ability to offer modified duties, job sharing, part-time working etc. It is really useful for all line managers to be aware what adjustments can be accommodated and to know that phased returns are supported and even encouraged at your company. It is still rare that the GP makes meaningful recommendations about what duties an individual can carry out, mainly because their knowledge of the employee’s role is limited. That does not mean a phased return can’t be arranged at the mutual agreement of the absent employee and the employer.


Goals for managers

Line managers are the cornerstones of good absence management. It is up to the line manager to intervene early and put into action the company’s absence management policies. Therefore it is crucial to have clear goals on managerial actions to achieve the overall absence management goals.

  1. Complete return to work interviews after every absence
    • 50% of interviews should take place on the day of return
    • 99% should be completed within the first week back to reap the maximum benefit
  2. Hold formal or informal meetings every time an employee trips a company trigger
    • Managerial discretion can be used in exception cases but this should not amount to more than 10% of all cases

Where individual managers or departments fail to meet their goal, senior management should pick this up. Missed targets could demonstrate where training is needed. Relevant support and training should be offered to all managers involved in managing absence.

Absence management goals for the organisation

On an organisational level, it is useful to have 2 main goals:

  1. Absence level below 2%
  2. Knowing the real cost of absence

Low absence levels can only be achieved if goals at the previous 2 levels are achieved. The latter is easier to achieve, with a good absence recording system and some analytics into calculating the cost of absence.