Coping With Employee Absence

During the cold months, employee absence and a decline in productivity are common problems for businesses.

There are two issues at hand. The first relates to employees that bolt the doors and lie in bed at the merest hint of a sniffle. The second issue is the dedicated employee who battles through debilitating flu viruses in order to be seen to ‘show up’ every day; unwittingly spreading germs and viruses throughout a confined work environment.

The fear of missing deadlines and accusatory glances from the boss are often enough to prevent some staff members from taking any time off at all.

But eventually, the spread of illness means you’re often left short-staffed and working ‘against the clock.’

Coping With Employee Absence And Sickness

Employee absences can be costly and disruptive to any sized business.

Here are some practical steps you can take to tackle the issue:

Track absences

Identify any patterns and days of absence. Does a particular employee take sickness leave at certain times? Are there any recurring issues that flag a likely absence?


All cases of sickness need to be handled sensitively. Keeping in touch with an absent employee helps maintain lines of communication and provides the support necessary to help employees absent through long-term sickness feel comfortable returning to work.

Culture and policy

Your staff should be clearly informed of your sickness policy and you must keep up-to-date records.

A supportive environment means that employees are less likely to feel they cannot take absence when genuinely unwell, and clearly communicated policies mean they are less likely to take unwarranted leave.

It is also prudent to carry out back to work interviews after a period of absence in order to support the employee and help identify any potential issues.

It is also worth considering checking a prospective employee’s sickness record with their previous employer, or, if necessary, you could implement your own internal medical examination as part of your recruitment process.

Employee absence can have serious implications for a small business. But if you have a plan in place to deal it, you will minimize its impact. Building a relationship with a trusted recruitment company can help maintain productivity and cover any last minute emergencies.

As always, if you have any doubt about your legal responsibilities, it is recommended you seek professional legal advice.