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Dealing with employee absence

1.8 million people are reported to suffer from an illness which they believe was caused by or made worse by their current or past work. 26.4 million working days are lost every year, 22.1 million due to work-related ill health and 4.4 million due to workplace injury.

Employee absences are both costly and disruptive. In any year, workplace absence typically averages 8.1 days per employee at a cost of £850 to the employer. Multiply this figure by the number of staff in your company, and take into account the disruption and lost work caused by other employees having to cover for absent colleagues, and you can see that absenteeism is a significant factor in damaging your profits.

Here are some practical steps to take.

Track the problem

Can you identify any particular problem areas? Are there patterns of absence? Does a particular department or employee have a below average record?

Focus on morale

Unhappy staff are more likely to take time off. A financial incentive for low absence is one solution but creating a friendly environment, where staff feel valued as part of a team and where flexible, family friendly policies are in place is likely to prove more effective at keeping absenteeism to a minimum.

Support sick employees

Long-term sickness must be handled sensitively. An employee's permission must be sought and given before applying for a medical report. Establish whether you should keep in touch so that the employee doesn't feel isolated. Consider referring them to an occupational health specialist. This can identify ways of helping them return to work and give you an indication of how long the absence is likely to last.

Have a clear policy - and enforce it

Make sure staff are well informed regarding sickness policy and procedures and that these are seen to be followed, and keep accurate records.

It is sensible to ensure that employers are aware of the right to request an independent medical assessment in the event of an employee taking substantial numbers of days off work. When recruiting you could check a potential employee's attendance record with their previous employer, and you may consider requiring all prospective staff to undergo a medical examination.

Make it company policy always to carry out a return to work interview. This may just let the employee know that their contribution was missed, or it could help identify underlying problems that will affect your management strategy. It may also deter staff from feigning illness.

Remember that disciplinary action for unacceptable absence must be distinguished from capability procedures related to illness. Employers need to be aware of the full range of conditions which come under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. In this case, reasonable adjustments must be made to help the employee return to work.

Employee absence is a serious issue for most small businesses, but there are steps you can take to minimise its impact. However, we recommend that you take professional advice before altering contracts or terms and conditions of employment.

Do please contact us for further advice on this matter.

Why Clients Choose Easy Accountancy

Easy Accountancy offers a low cost, fixed fee accountancy package with all clients receiving their own dedicated, friendly, approachable accountant.

All of our accountants specialise in providing accountancy services to the self-employed, freelancers, sole traders, small to medium sized limited companies and private individuals. All accountants are employees of Easy Accountancy and we never outsource or offshore work.

Our low cost, all-inclusive fixed-fee accountancy service includes unlimited access to your own dedicated accountant throughout the year and covers all your business and personal tax affairs needs.

All our accountancy services include:
  - Unlimited access to your accountant
  - Ongoing advice on how to manage your business
  - Proactive tax advice throughout the year
  - Updates and reminders so you'll never miss a deadline
  - Free bookkeeping software

As a sole trader our fees start at just £60 + VAT a month, for this you receive the above plus:
  - Completion of your Self-Assessment tax return
  - Advice on how much Income Tax to pay
  - Guidance on National Insurance contributions

As a limited company our fixed fee packages are bespoke to your needs, however typically you’ll receive the above, plus:
  - Completion of your year end accounts*
  - Completion and submission of your annual return Companies House
  - The director/s Self Assessment tax return
  - Payroll bureau
  - Dividends and corporation tax computations

We’ve saved our clients up to half on their accountancy bills – if you’d like a quote, click on the quote me button to the right of this page. Alternatively, call us on 01442 275767 or email

*If you would like us to complete your company year end accounts we simply ask that you have been a client of Easy Accountancy for one year or have made 12 monthly payments.