Managing Absence – How Flexible Should SMEs Be?
30th May 2018
Whether you’re working in HR or not, you’ve probably come across any number of daft or outlandish reasons colleagues have used in order to get a sneaky day off work. A recent article on the subject highlighted excuses as varied as “I’m too fat for my uniform” to the implausible sounding “I forgot to come back to work after lunch” to the downright weird such as “My car is surrounded by wild animals”. To be fair the chances of your vehicle being inaccessible due to marauding wildlife happening here in the UK are minimal and you’d be advised not to use this excuse if you’re thinking of pulling a sickie any time soon!
But joking aside, absenteeism is costing the UK economy around £15 billion annually – and small and medium enterprises are often the hardest hit. The problem is compounded by many SMEs being caught between a flexible small business approach to work and the need to implement policies and procedures for managing absence as the company grows.
For example, a firm with 100 employees who each take an average of six non-holiday days per year could save in excess of £23,000 simply by decreasing absenteeism to 4.7 days per person per annum. So how does a busy firm go about managing SME absence, especially when a lack of big business resources make investing the time to implement new policies seem overwhelming?
Being flexible is key – and is something that most SME can afford to be, especially when rising costs and a lack of productivity and engagement are concerns. It’s important to decide how flexible you want to be in regards to tackling absenteeism though. Ways of managing absence should be fairly easy to implement, especially if you’re at the lower end of the scale, staff-wise and embracing flexible working could be the answer to cutting the cost of absenteeism.
This may well include changing the mindset of older or more traditional managers or owners by making them aware of the benefits to the business that managing absence through a more flexible approach will entail. For example, the business should be willing to engage in different ways of organising tasks and using new technology so that remote work is possible. This is something particularly useful in helping with managing SME absence in firms where there is a high ratio of parents who might otherwise need to take time off to care for poorly children.
When considering a flexible approach, it is also crucial that you take the number of employees into account: if you have, say, 20 employees, it should be fairly easy to allow for more informal arrangements that are based on trust. However, if you employ a greater number of staff you will probably want to implement a more structured policy. For larger SMEs flexibility will likely need to be tempered by some formality such as HR-led systems for managing absence and tracking days off while businesses of all sizes will definitely benefit from improved communication between managers and staff when it comes to time off.
Clarisse works on our Customer Care Team to provide all of our customers to the very best care and guidance when using their HR software.