Sickness Absence Management for Small Businesses

29th September 2020

Absenteeism in the workplace can be an expensive time for small businesses who have to find temporary staff, provide compensation to sick employees and deal with a loss of hours and productivity. This year businesses and employees have dealt with the added stress and pressures of the global coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has not only impacted the physical health of employees but also their mental wellbeing. Managing sickness absence has never been more important.

Types of sickness management:

Proactive management

This is the most effective way to manage absenteeism at work. Having policies already in place and setting clear expectations for employees ahead of time can help in a smooth transition back to work.

Reactive management

Once an employee goes off work sick, the employer can focus on the return to work of staff and carry out an Occupational Health assessment to see when the staff member is fit to return to the workplace.

Our tips:

1. Monitor your Team

Unfortunately there is not a way to predict when employees are too poorly to attend the workplace and require time off work, however monitoring trends in employee absences is the first step in understanding how to manage the problem best in your business. There may be seasonal trends, instances of recurring sickness and certain members of staff who have higher absences than others. Understanding these patterns can help you put measures in place to manage the problem ahead of time.

2. Absence Policy

Having a sickness policy in place is an important way to manage your team and reduce the impact on your business. The policy should include how employees are required to notify of illness, notice periods of sickness leave, sick pay entitlements, illness certification requirements, return to work policies and disciplinary action taken against staff off too frequently.

3. Looking after Mental Health

Looking after the mental health and wellbeing of your staff is so important; the wellbeing of your staff has a huge impact on job satisfaction and productivity levels and can even reduce mental health leave in the workplace. Did you know one in four adults in the UK experience mental health problems? Having the right programmes in place can make all the difference and help you manage mental health absences. Find out how we can help you support your employees’ mental health and wellbeing.

4. Returning to work

Short-term illness

It is a good idea to hold back to work interviews with employees even if they have only been off for a short time. It can help you monitor levels of absenteeism across the business and flag any employees who are frequently off. It is important to remember that sometimes short-term illness can be as a result of underlying health conditions and disabilities.

Long-term illness

Managing long term sick leave is more difficult for small businesses as they have to cover higher workloads. Keeping in regular communication with employees on leave allows you to create a return to work plan that works for them – this could be a phased return. You should obtain medical evidence stating the employee is fit to return to work when the time is right.


It goes without saying that during the coronavirus pandemic you may have higher levels of sickness absenteeism in your business. It is important to keep in regular contact with any employees who are off sick with Covid-19 and to monitor how they are recovering and when they will be able to return to work. Having clear guidelines and policies in place will help employees know what to do if they develop symptoms and have to take time off work. It is important to work closely with your staff when they are ready to return to work; some may have longer recovery times and need a phased return.

It is also important to be aware of the knock-on effects of the virus on all aspects of health. Those suffering from anxiety and depression may be struggling more during these uncertain times. Employees with existing medical conditions might also be finding it hard to manage illnesses and may require sickness leave.

Keeping up-to-date with the government guidelines and policies will help keep your business running as safely as possible during the pandemic and allow you to manage sickness leave in the most efficient way. We are now also offering occupational health support for Covid-19, find out more about how we can help your business through this time.

If you would like further information about managing sickness absenteeism in the workplace, get in touch with our team of occupational health advisors today – we are happy to help!

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