GOOD PRACTICE IN MAINTAING STAFF WELLBEING AND MANAGING ATTENDANCE A Guide for Line Managers
Introduction This powerpoint guide is aimed at anyone with line management responsibility, and for leading a team, to help them fully understand their roles and responsibilities around maintaining a positive working environment, promoting health and wellbeing of their staff, and managing attendance in a fair, consistent and robust way. The guide will give an overview of key areas and also provide sign-posting to useful information, policies and other guides. ‘All organisations say routinely, “People are our greatest asset.” Yet few practise what they preach, let alone truly believe it.’ Peter Drucker, 1999
Wellbeing A motivated, healthy workforce is more likely to perform well. CIPD research shows that health and well-being in the workplace is steadily rising up the business agenda as more employers recognise the benefits and contribution that can be made by introducing workplace health and wellness policies. Source: CIPD What’s happening with well-being at work? Healthy Work Environments As a manager, you are responsible for ensuring the environment your staff work in is as healthy as possible. This includes not just the physical environment but the psychological environment, so ensure conflict is managed, stressful situations are minimised where possible, staff are supported through difficult events and that you demonstrate you care. Get to know your staff so you can detect signs when things are not going so well. Health promotion By encouraging and supporting staff to maintain a healthy lifestyle, you can play a role in reducing sickness and stress levels. Encourage your staff to live healthier lifestyles. The Trust provides a wide range of support including smoking cessation, fitness clubs, counselling. Resource: Please visit www.heftlivewellworkwell.co.uk for more information. This can be also be accessed via the intranet under ‘O’ for Occupational Health.
Who is involved in Managing Attendance? • High absence levels affect everyone in the organisation and can not be seen as a purely management problem. Employers, workers and their representatives should work together to monitor and control absence. • The line manager is vital in managing attendance • Occupational health provide guidance and advice around health conditions that impact on work, or where work impacts on health. • The staff member is required to attend review meetings, keep themselves healthy, co-operate fully and inform their manager when fit to return to work even when this falls on a day off. • A Trade Union Representative will support staff at all formal review meetings • A Human Resources specialist – will support the manager at review meetings and provide specialist advice when dealing with attendance cases.
What does absence cost? Every year 140 million working days are lost to sickness absence, much of which ends in a swift return to work. However, a significant number of absences last longer than they need to and each year over 300,000 people fall out of work onto health-related state benefits. Much absence and inactivity is due to comparatively mild illness which is compatible with work – and may indeed be improved by work. Source; Health at work – an independent review of sickness absence Dame Carol Black and David Frost CBE November 2011 Absence costs HEFT approximately £12m each year in lost time alone, and a potential additional £5m per year in replacement/cover costs. You can access a tool via the link below to calculate the cost of absence in your area. Just think what you may be able to do with the additional funds?! http://www.dwp.gov.uk/health-work-and-well-being/our-work/workplace-well-being-tool/
Make it part of the day job! • Know your staff well enough to know when things are not the norm. Look for signs of stress, abnormal behaviours etc. • Understand the factors at play which make for higher than necessary sickness absence in your area eg. conflicts, high pressure environment • • Be able to create positive working practices to reduce stress at work and boost staff engagement, health and attendance. Consider simple things like quick stand up team chats, thanking staff for their contribution, quick ‘health’ checks • • Compare your absence rates with other similar areas to see if you have a problem. You can ask your HR representative to help with this • • Deal confidently and effectively with return to work interviews and formal meetings within procedures, be consistent, be firm, be clear, be fair. • • Effectively support staff who have been absent from work through appropriate OH referrals, regular contact, discussing support mechanisms on return, considering different options to help them return. Be flexible and creative in your thinking. It’s better to have someone at work doing something slightly different than not having them at all.
Potential causes of absence ■ genuine illness/poor health ■ smoking ■ excessive use of alcohol ■ lack of exercise ■ body weight Attitude and stress ■ job satisfaction ■ career satisfaction ■ intention to leave ■ organisational commitment ■ stress ■ absence ‘culture’ ■ working patterns ■ health and safety concerns ■ travel times ■ excessive hours Domestic and kinship ■ Gender ■ Number of children under 16 ■ lack of flexible working arrangements source: IES Managing Absence Effectively
Managers Role in Absence Management Be familiar with the policy, triggers, targets and processes for each stage. The Policy can be found on the intranet. Ensure you understand your responsibilities for specific issues such as staff with disabilities, staff with mental health issues, and chronic conditions. Ensure you undertake return to work interviews in a timely and consistent way so that everyone knows what to expect when they’ve been absent. Be clear about your expectations of your team members. Ensure they understand the policy and that you will deal robustly with unacceptable absence levels. Be clear about reporting in. If you set deadlines/timescales for improvements through the absence processes, set the review date and stick to it. This gives a clear message that you take absence seriously. Use the resources on the HR Website, eg. videos and managers tool-kit to help you.
Return to Work Interviews • Return to work interviews are a crucial part of good attendance management. They: • Allow you to check on employees health and wellbeing and that they are fit to be back • Ensure that employees know that their absence has been noticed • Enable discussion about any issues and concerns to happen early • Prevent longer term absences or frequent absences • It doesn’t have to be an overly formalised discussion. It can be a simple ‘chat’ but that sets clear expectations and allows for open dialogue. • The key is: • Ensure they happen on the day of return (a phone call is fine if necessary). Delegating responsibility is also fine providing the individuals understand the process well. • Use positive language, be supportive, but firm. • Ask open questions and allow for dialogue to take place • See the video guide under the Leadership website “How to Guides”.
Stage Reviews • The Trust Policy outlines stage reviews when absence levels hit specific trigger points. (see the policy for details on this) • Stage reviews are important to ensure that employees are aware that their absence has hit a point where it is of concern • The reviews should be supportive, but also be firm and set clear expectations • The reviews can help highlight issues and concerns, and referral to OH may be appropriate • Reviews should set ‘targets’ for improvement. Set deadlines and ensure that a further review is undertaken to keep the process fluid • Seek HR advice if the issues appear complex • Use positive language and open questions to help build rapport • Seek to find ways to support improved attendance
Role of occupational health Occupational health is a specialist branch of medicine focussing on health in the workplace. It is concerned with the physical and mental well-being of employees at work. Occupational health specialists can support organisations through advising on work-related illnesses and accidents, carrying out medicals for new starters and existing employees and monitoring the health of employees An OH report will provide you with an independent assessment of the employee’s condition and a recommendation as to whether they are fit to return to work. The report may also contain suggestions for adjustments to the working environment or working practices to assist the employee in their recovery. It is best to comply with these wherever practicable to ensure that the staff member is able to return to work as soon as possible. Please visit the Occupational Health website for more information on the services they offer.
Keeping Contact A policy of maintaining contact with team members is important. Research shows one in five employees off sick for six weeks or more ultimately fail to return to their job. As part of the process of maintaining contact with an employee during long term sickness absence employers should ask to be kept informed of medical appointments, prognoses and anticipated return to work dates. Whatever the reason for absence, agree how you will maintain contact from the outset. This helps the employee to feel valued and supported. Consideration should be given to what changes to the employee's working conditions or other arrangements might be made to accommodate the employee and secure an earlier return to work. Occupational Health may contact the employee's GP/Consultant where necessary
Good practice – a review • Maintain a positive working environment and set standards and expectations • Timely return to work discussions. • Keeping in regular contact with staff when they’re off • Each case of sickness absence will be treated on an individual basis • Ensure each individual is provided with a copy of the procedure for reporting absence • Maintain an attendance record for each individual inc. dates, reason (if given), known medical diagnosis and copies of forms • Monitor sickness rates, individual and departmental • Investigate possible causes of sickness • Seek advice from HR and Occupational Health when required • Be firm but fair, and consistent in your approach