The great British summer – a guide to managing staff absence

With Wimbledon beginning this week, concerns have already begun to circulate on the employment circuit regarding how the prestigious tennis tournament could affect workplace absence. It is believed that if Andy Murray makes it to the final, it could cost the UK economy £3.2bn as fans take unauthorised leave to watch the match.

Victoria Mitchella_clipped_rev_1

Victoria Mitchell, associate partner, Farleys Solicitors

Unauthorised absenteeism in the workplace can be a nightmare for employers, particularly during the summer months where the number of employees on annual leave is at its highest. This can be extremely disruptive for businesses and in particular SME’s; putting needless strain on both employees and resources.

It is no coincidence that during the great British summer there is a significant rise in employee absenteeism taken without significant reason or notice. Although staff may wish to make the most of the week or two of sun we may have during work hours, this can have a devastating impact on businesses affecting both work morale and productivity.

Business owners are often uncertain about how best to deal with workplace absence. Failure to act in the correct manner can leave them vulnerable to employment claims, but taking no action clearly send the wrong message to employees.

In order to tackle the issue effectively employers must have a strategic plan in place regarding absenteeism in the workplace. This begins with having clear policies regarding annual holidays and absences. The correct procedures attached to both of these polices should also be stated within your staff handbook. Doing this will give employees guidelines to adhere to as well as simultaneously combating the excuse of being unaware of the policies in place. A clear absence policy will also allow you to implement procedures consistently and fairly, strictly limiting the scope for employee grievance issues.

As an employer it is your duty to determine the reason behind your employees’ absence. Monitoring individual absence levels will also allow you to identify patterns in behaviour determining how you wish to proceed with the matter. This is particularly important where you wish to begin disciplinary matters against an employee. Failure to demonstrate you made all the necessary investigations into their absence resulting in an employee dismissal can leave you vulnerable to further employment law issues. Finally, absence management should formulate one of your key priorities when constructing a long term business plan. A productive and happy workforce is essential to a business’ success. Having proper policies in place will not only create an enjoyable working environment but also minimise the hundreds of pounds lost in absence days each year.