Employer absenteeism takes various forms. For example, if the business leadership fails to set out a good approach to absenteeism. Or if HR sees absenteeism as a purely administrative process and provides managers with insufficient support. Or when managers invest too little or no time in talking about absenteeism with employees.
But how can the circle be broken? Bart Teuwen, General Manager of Certimed, offers 5 pieces of advice:
1. Dare to address absenteeism and employability
“Talking about an illness is not the done thing, these conversations should be saved for the doctor. But it is possible – without pointing a finger – to demonstrate the consequences of absenteeism behaviour to the team and organisation, supported by facts and figures from HR. Because once the taboo surrounding absenteeism has disappeared, you can also talk about increasing employability, by making changes to duties, for example.”
2. Work towards an open culture of communication
“Instead of being against each other, we have to learn to talk to each other with genuine interest. As soon as people – from the top to the bottom of an organisation – have made that mental shift, problems can be tackled more quickly. This is especially true if there is no fear of conflict or other negative consequences."
Read more about friendly, business-like dialogue
3. Create an environment of trust
“An open culture only makes sense if there is trust. Management and HR are responsible for ensuring employees feel employers genuinely mean well. In concrete terms: that they can always turn to someone in confidence if they have problems, without it being used against them. The supervisor will normally be their first point of contact. However, provide other solutions or avenues to address issues because the supervisor may be the cause of the problem, or contributing to it.”
Read more about the factors that can trigger absenteeism.
4. Strengthen the skills of your supervisors
“Your supervisors or HR staff may not be able to talk about absenteeism and employability because they lack the social skills to do so. Supporting your people is the message. Send them on training courses to improve their interview techniques, and develop an interview guide to be used during absenteeism interviews.”
5. Make sufficient time available for following up on absenteeism
“Your supervisors may not be able to schedule absenteeism interviews into their crowded agenda. Or maybe your HR service cannot get further than carrying out an administrative follow-up due to their high workload. These are very recognisable situations. However, if you want to set up an absenteeism policy that is supported throughout the organisation, you have to accept that it is a long-term process. So sit down with HR and your supervisors and come up with solutions to ensure there is sufficient free time to tackle the issue.”
As you can see, absenteeism is a matter for the entire organisation. Management develops the policy. HR monitors the absenteeism figures and ensures compliance with procedures. Supervisors are the first point of contact for employees. And, finally, every colleague in the teams must collectively pick up on the first alarm signals for absenteeism and help keep the communication lines open with the sick colleague.”