Wellbeing strategy and managing absence in the workplace – an introduction for SMEs

Wellbeing strategy and managing absence in the workplace – an introduction for SMEs

Is your absence management policy fit for purpose?

Zak Fenton, a Director of Risk & Employee Benefits at Wren Sterling, helps clients to implement wellbeing strategies and manage absence within the workplace

SMEs employ 15.7 million people in the UK, with a turnover of £1.8 trillion each year. The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) reports that sickness absence keeps employees away from work for at least four days a year. In my experience SMEs are often the least prepared to deal with absent employees and handle the impact of on productivity and profit, but there are ways to minimise this. If you employ between 50 and 249 people, the figure jumps to five and a half days.

It’s common for employers to tackle absence on a case by case basis, more often than not this is discretionary and fraught with uncertainty for both employees and managers alike. Absence management processes are built on consistent and accurate recording of absence data, so it’s important to have appropriate, professional and personal support in times of an employee’s absence due to sickness, injury or even death.

It’s often the responsibility of line managers to manage absence within the team they oversee. Are line managers trained ‘managers of absence’? Perhaps they have become managers due to a promotion from the role they now manage. One thing is for sure – they can’t do it alone. With minor illnesses topping the CIPD’s sickness absence survey of short-term absence and stress being the second highest cause of absence, where do you turn to for help? With stress, mental ill-health and home responsibilities (such as caring for family members) all featuring in the top five most common causes for short term absence it’s important to get ahead of everyday issues and complex ones before the need arises and be confident in your contingency should a more complex issue arise.

Providers in the Group Risk and Employee Benefit market are increasingly offering support to businesses and line managers alike on how to manage absence in the workplace.

“Provider ‘added-value’ services allow employers to step in at the first sign of a potential absence and look to stop a short-term issue from becoming a long-term issue.”

Early intervention

Early intervention is a powerful tool in a well-constructed wellbeing strategy. It’s important to emphasize prevention, coupled with intervention at the right time. Provider ‘added-value’ services allow employers to step in at the first sign of a potential absence and look to stop a short-term issue from becoming a long-term issue.

With an ageing workforce, people are working to a greater age and the likelihood of an illness or injury is increased. Sickness absence is predicted to rise by four per cent by 2030  so it’s imperative to review your arrangements are fit for purpose now. With solutions like Group Income Protection, it’s not only the employee that benefits from the policy. Employers get back an average of £61 for every £100 spent on a policy and look to reduce the length of absence by around 17-18 per cent. With Sick Pay Insurance, third party validation of absences helps to relieve some of the pressures employers face when managing sickness.

One size doesn’t fit all

Every business is different and we want to get to know all about your absence management procedures and benefit arrangements to help ease the headache and financial burden of absence. With employers no longer able to claim back Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), it’s becoming more common for employers to look at alternative solutions to remove the uncertainty of their spend on sickness absence.

“With employers no longer able to claim back Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), it’s becoming more common for employers to look at alternative solutions to remove the uncertainty of their spend on sickness absence.”

With the responsibility normally falling on line managers and HR, it’s important for senior staff to understand the actual cost to the company and the challenges people face when managing absence.  At Wren Sterling, we build all types of wellbeing strategies as part of our commitment to maximise the impact of your employee benefit offering.

Typically an employer will wait until someone has been off work for weeks or even months before contacting a provider or their financial adviser for help. We can work with you and your provider to ensure you’re able to pre-empt these situations.

  • What does your employee benefits package do for your business?
  • Is it fit for purpose?
  • Does your employee benefits package align with your absence management procedures?
  • Are you aware of everything your provider can offer within the insurance policies that you already pay for?
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