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Absence management: are we focusing on the real problem?

Posted by Matthew Scrimshire on 13/06/18 15:14

For many, improving absence management processes has become ‘old hat’. Promoting wellbeing is the newer, more fashionable agenda. But in reality, absence management remains a crucial part of everyday, working life.

Many organisations relegate absence management down on their list of priorities, believing they have exhausted all avenues through policy review and streamlining. What they overlook though, is the core issue:

If people returned to health sooner, the process surrounding the absence becomes less important.

Businesses often outsource processes such as recruitment, to specialist companies. They call on their expertise until such time that an internal manager’s knowledge of the role and team becomes paramount. It’s a perfect example of the right skills being deployed at the right time. And it works.

When comparing recruitment processes to absence management, there’s an important difference - as when someone is absent through illness, a medical issue is present.

Therefore, without medical expertise, line managers are unqualified to make a positive impact on the absence by giving advice.

Why, then, do businesses choose to outsource some, if not all of a core people process such as recruitment to a specialist, yet don’t have medical issues handled by a specialist?

Real world example: For many short-term absences, employees will choose not to bother a doctor unnecessarily, instead deciding to self-medicate. With the multitude of over-the-counter remedies available, coupled with the drive to get better, people can make mistakes. This week, our nurses uncovered another paracetamol overdose. The caller had no idea they were heading towards significant liver damage before our intervention. What chance has a manager with no medical training, and minimal time, got of spotting this? Occupational Health would have been alerted after the damage was done.

Using a set number of days as a trigger for medical evaluation is one approach to absence management, but not the most effective, especially with an overstretched NHS in need of support. Businesses supported by FirstCare’s nurse-led service average a 19% drop in the length of short term employee absence, saving money and boosting morale.

Absence management practices need to be re-evaluated. Let’s stop focusing on the process surrounding the problem and handle the problem itself.

There’s a ‘day one’ for every absence. Make it count.

Talk to FirstCare about putting your staff’s health first and enhancing your absence management approach today by contacting a member of our team.