Managing Staff Absenteeism During the Covid-19 Pandemic

November 16, 2020


Staff absenteeism refers to periods of absence from work that can become frequent and habitual. It is different from preapproved absence from work such as annual leave and family leave.

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to an increase in staff absence from work, including but not limited to:

  • staff waiting for Covid-19 test results and having to self-isolate in the meantime;

  • staff who have tested positive for Covid-19 and must self-isolate;

  • staff who must self-isolate due to household members/those in their bubbles having symptoms of or testing positive for Covid-19;

  • reduced options for childcare for working parents due to nursery and school closures; and/or

  • staff required to self-isolate after travelling outside the UK, and workers who fear returning to the workplace.

Staff absenteeism can disrupt business continuity, reduce productivity levels, and waste time and costs for an employer. It can also have a detrimental impact on remaining staff if they have to work overtime in order to keep on top of the workload, leading to staff burnout, which has a negative impact on the quality of work and performance.

Employment lawyer, Owen John sets out tips for managing staff absenteeism during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond:

1. Employee attendance policy

Having an attendance policy in place will give staff clear written guidance on your expectations and the consequences of failing the comply with the policy. Remember to add to or amend any of the existing provisions in the policy in light of the pandemic, actively share the policy with your staff, and train your managers on its content.

2. Be proactive

Set out your expectations clearly and early on in the employment relationship. Also, by directly addressing the problem you show your staff that staff absence from work without a good reason is unacceptable. Review your disciplinary policy to see whether the employee’s absence from work warrants disciplinary action in the circumstances, and if so, follow the steps set out in your policy.

3. Boost workplace morale

Take the time to recognise staff accomplishments; staff who feel valued are less likely to be absent from work for no good reason. It costs nothing to acknowledge and celebrate hard work and excellent performance, but the impact on staff self-esteem and productivity is priceless.

4. Staff feedback

Carry out frequent surveys for your staff so you have a more informed idea of how they feel at work; for example, do they feel motivated and appreciated? Or do they feel overwhelmed with work and lack the necessary support to do their job? Be sure to use any potential negative feedback as a learning opportunity and a chance to reconnect with your staff to reduce absenteeism.



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