This year has been an unprecedented year in terms of working practices, new legislation and ways of working. The lockdowns and restrictions this year have seen more staff than ever working from home, or working in flexible ways that may not have been considered before.
How has the pandemic affected absence levels?
Although at first glance, absence rates are likely to have improved over this period, there have been many unexpected absences which will undoubtedly have affected your figures. The current trend appears to show less actual sickness absence than in normal years. Many staff were working from home, therefore there was perhaps more of a tendency not to ring in sick. Staff were not needing to commute to work, work in shared offices or attend meetings etc that they may have before. This made it easier for many to work from home even if they did not feel 100%.
However, there have been some other aspects which have had a detrimental affect on absence levels. Many individuals will have become unwell with COVID, relating in sickness absence or potential hospitalisation. There has also been a large volume of isolation time, either people isolating as they were a close contact, isolating because a member of their household had symptoms, or parents and carers needing to isolate to look after children where their childcare setting was in isolation.
Sickness reasons have also changed this year, with now 1 in 4 sick certificates being issued for mental health related absences. This is a trend which is highly likely to continue into the coming months.
How can I improve attendance?
In terms of managing the mental health related absence, providing support and maintaining dialogue with those who are unwell will help to facilitate their return to work. Flexibility around isolations, home working and childcare may help to mitigate the impact of those who are unable to attend work. However, there will inevitably be settings where home working is not practical.
Ensuring your workplace is COVID safe is a requirement for any businesses who are open and have employees at work. These measure make the likelihood of an outbreak less likely, and will help you to maintain safe and effective working environments even should you have staff who test positive.
Following your absence policies, including staff reporting sickness and carrying out return to work interviews (and keeping accurate records) will allow you to proactively manage attendance levels and identify any areas of concern.
What effect will the Christmas period have on absence levels?
The relaxation of restrictions over Christmas is feared to have a detrimental effect on the rise of the virus and the prevalence of positive tests in the new year. This may in turn result in increased numbers of staff either off sick as they are unwell or isolating as detailed above.
Although you cannot control your staff’s actions over the period, you can remind staff of the importance of following the rules and action with caution.
Making sure that your workplaces are safe and that risk assessments re
main up to date is vitally important and will ensure that the appropriate measures are in place to control the spread of the virus.
Leading by example and ensuring that management adopt safe working practices will inspire employees to adhere to the same standards. If everybody pulls together and follows the rules, the impact of the pandemic will hopefully be minimised, and business will shortly return to normal levels.