Research from Group Risk Development*, (GRiD) shows that for the majority of employers staff absence has remained static or is improving, yet 23% of companies still don’t record, monitor or manage absence.

GRiD advises that the starting point for absence management is for companies to have an absence policy. Their staff need to know what action to take if absent – such as who to call, and any absence needs to be recorded and monitored.

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD said, “It is important that any absence is recorded so that it can be managed. There is a lot of noise about absence management, and some employers may be at a loss as to what to do, but a lot of help is available within Group Risk policies which can offer practical support in helping staff back to work as well as financial support. However, the starting point has to be monitoring absence in the first place.”

Group income protection policies can provide great help for companies in managing absence, both long-term and short-term. They can provide sick or injured staff with a regular income so that employers don’t have to foot the bill directly. They’ll often also include a vocational rehabilitation service to help facilitate returns to work.

Many of the businesses we speak to tell us they don’t have a problem with absence – and they don’t keep accurate records to measure it.  I’m surprised it’s only 23% of businesses that don’t measure it, as we’d expected it to be higher.

Businesses typically deploy our software to take charge of staff holiday planning, however it is the sickness absence features that HR quickly find indispensable. Once businesses start to measure sickness absence and how much it costs their business, they are almost always keen to manage it better – and they really value the tools that help them do that.

Getting absence management right means HR can target wellness initiatives effectively and make better use of the Group Risk benefits that they may have in place but were not making good use of.   Apart from recording absence accurately, the most important step HR can take to reduce absence is to identify and support sick employees as early on as possible.

GRid found that of those that did record staff absence:

•             25% of companies say their absence has improved over the last 12 months, for 10% it has worsened.

•             In terms of length of absence, over half (55%) of employers say that, on average, their employees take five or fewer days off sick each year, 4% said on average their employees took more than 15 days off.

It is important to have an understanding of the reasons for absence as well as patterns. Knowledge is power, and when companies know why their staff take time off work they can put appropriate measures in place.

Musculoskeletal absence may benefit from fast access to physiotherapy; stress and anxiety may call for greater utilisation of an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) – these are two of the most common reasons for absence, and support for both can be available via a Group Risk policy.

Last year, Group Risk providers helped 1,878 people back to work with some sort of active intervention before they reached the point of making a claim for group income protection payments. This represents 25% of the claims submitted in 2015 – up 5 percentage points since 2014 – and demonstrates the value that providers add beyond paying claims.