How your business can prevent and manage short term staff absence

We have some tips for you.

David Quinn: BrightHR Social Media Manager

Everyone gets ill from time to time. But whilst it may seem like a minor inconvenience, according to the CIPD the average UK employee takes 6.3 days sick leave per year - add that up across your whole business and suddenly it’s not the ‘odd sick day’ anymore. There’s the obvious financial cost of paying that employee’s sick leave, but there are also other costs including loss of productivity, team morale and potential loss of business.

So what are the main causes of short-term absence and how can you minimise the impact on your business?

The causes of short-term absence

There are a whole host of reasons why your employees may be off work sick for a short period of time. In 2016 a CIPD survey found that the five most common causes of short-term absences for employees were:

  • Minor illness
  • Stress
  • Musculoskeletal injuries
  • Home/family/carer responsibilities
  • Mental ill health

How to minimise the effects

  • Accept it happens and plan ahead

Staff illness is bound to happen at some point so it’s best to have plans in place before it does. Will you need to bring someone in to help cover the absence? Will anyone else in the team need access to their contacts or important documents? Who will look after any of the absentees’ workload or clients? It’s worth spending some time considering the implications of your staff having a day or two off, and having plans in place to reduce the impact as much as possible.

  • Flexible working

Flexible working could offer an alternative, and a preventative, measure to your staff taking sick leave. Take for example a worker who feels they’re not fit enough to come into the office but could work from home. If you don’t have a flexible working policy in place, the employee will either take the day off sick (when they could have worked from home) or will come into work feeling unwell and may pass on any illness to other workers in the office. By offering flexible working it means that workers could potentially still work from home even if they feel a little under the weather.

Flexible working may also act as a preventative measure, as workers who have this option tend to suffer less from stress, and can feel like they can deal with quick personal priorities. This may include visiting the dentist or handling a sudden emergency, without feeling that their only option is to take unplanned time off.

  • Wellbeing in the workplace

The health and wellbeing of your employees shouldn’t just be about those who are off ill, you should be looking after of all your workers - whether they’re ill or not. By offering health and wellbeing initiatives at work you not only improve both the physical and mental health of your workforce, but you can increase productivity, lower staff turnover rates and even reduce short-term absenteeism.

  • Improving communication

Stress is one of the leading causes of staff illness, and anything you can do to reduce the stress levels of your employees will help prevent the need for any time off. One of the easiest ways of doing this is to improve the communication within your organisation. By doing so, your employees have the opportunity to open up about any stress or work-related issues they may have, and to come to you directly for help or support. This could be as simple as taking the time to talk with your staff on a more informal basis or through organising team building events.


Find out more about reducing the impact of unplanned absence in your workplace by downloading our latest ‘planning for unplanned absence guide