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13th December 2021

Effective Absence Management

As part of our ongoing series aimed at building a better social care workforce, today we focus on the importance of monitoring when staff are away from work. Laura Wood explains.

Effective absence management is about supporting staff with health issues to stay in work or return to work. In case you missed it, we outlined how providers can takes proactive steps to enhance staff wellbeing which will lead to a happier and healthier workforce with a reduction in absenteeism. See further information at the end of this blog.

Apart from annual leave, there many reasons why staff may need to take time off work. These include:

  • Short or long-term sickness
  • Authorised absences such as maternity, paternity, adoption or parental leave
  • Time off for public or trade union duties
  • Care for dependants
  • Compassionate leave
  • Educational leave
  • Unauthorised absence or persistent lateness

It is important to note that every workplace may well have different rules on what they regard as reasons for absence.

What is Absence Management?

Accurate measurement and monitoring, identifying trends and exploring the underlying cases are key elements of effective absence management.

How do you Manage Absence?

There are different ways of measuring this which should be highlighted in your policies and procedures:

‘Lost Time’ Rate

This measures the percentage of total time available which has been lost due to absence. It can be calculated separately for different services to identify areas of concern.

Frequency Rate

This shows the average number of absences per employee expressed as a percentage. It gives no indication of the length of each absence period or any indication of staff who take more than one spell of absence.

Bradford Factor

By measuring the number of spells of absence, the Bradford Factor identifies persistent, short-term absence for individuals and is therefore a useful measure of the disruption caused by this type of absence. However, the Bradford factor can be controversial as it can penalise staff who fall ill and then come back to work quickly. The reasons for the frequent episodes of absence should be discussed with the staff member before any disciplinary action is taken. Providers must remember that staff with a disability predisposes them to frequent, short term absences so reasonable adjustments must always be considered.


Some providers may wish to use a trigger system with a clear process on when to take formal action. For example, initiating a meeting when a person hits 3 absences in 4 months or 1 period over 30 days. These policies need clear guidance on supporting individuals.

All the above should involve support from Occupational Health. Occupational Health should be seen as a supportive measure with the aim of improving the person’s attendance. Occupational Health (or the person’s GP) can advise whether the person may or may not be fit for work. In addition, they should be given information on the person’s job role, the impact of the absence and the person’s relevant history. Occupational Health may then advise on the following:

  • Phased return to work
  • Amended duties
  • Altered hours
  • Workplace adaptations

Effective attendance management involves finding a balance between providing support to help staff with their health conditions to stay in work and taking a firm, consistent approach in the minority of cases where employees may take advantage of the company sick pay scheme.

A focus on the wellbeing of staff is good for people as well as employers to help avoid non-genuine absence problems developing and create a happy, healthy and engaged workforce.

Further information

Employee Assistance Programmes for your Workplace

Wellbeing Training for Managers

How to praise your employees effectively

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

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