HR Advisors Conference Blog

Further thoughts from the conference or about the challenges of being in an HR Advisory role.

8 ways to manage sick leave

One of the areas you often need to report on and manage as an HR Advisor, is the levels of sick leave in the company. But there are things you can do to proactively manage these. Here are 8 suggestions for you to consider for your business:

  1. Report actual sick leave. We often lump all sick leave taken into one category, however if you get managers to ask employees why they are sick (is it them personally, their family – which is actually domestic leave, or is it an injury or accident) then you’ll actually get a more accurate picture of what’s really happening.
  2. Everyone has days they just wake up and would do anything to stay in bed. Some companies offer a couple of ‘duvet’ days, where the employee can just call in and say they want to stay in bed. They don’t have to lie and say they are sick or pretend to have a cough – they can call in without guilt.
  3. Monitor pollen levels and plan for sick leave being higher during weeks or months when the pollen count is high. Many people think they have a cold or flu, but it’s actually pollen. If you proactively let your management team know that during XXX weeks or months there may be higher sick leave – you can plan for it in advance.
  4. At the start of winter, provide flu jabs for people (either having a nurse come onsite or providing vouchers). But then make sure you record who had the flu jab, and then how many people were off with flu!
  5. Provide guidelines for managers on how to manage sick leave. What do they do if someone texts they are sick? What can they ask if someone calls in sick (e.g. if they say they have a headache, the manager could check if they could come in that afternoon). Introduce back to work meetings to discuss when employees are taking a lot of sick leave.
  6. Introduce some wellness initiatives – walking clubs, fruit days, sugar free months, weight watchers group, fun runs or walks. You may bring nutritionists in to talk to people about how to eat healthy. If it’s winter then having a blitz on hand washing, as not washing hands properly is one of the biggest spread of cold and flu germs. Also look at offering flexibility of hours. Sometimes people take sick leave because they don’t have time to get their personal errands done. Could they actually work 30 mins each day and have a couple of hours off on Wednesday or Friday afternoon? Could they work from home one afternoon a week?
  7. Use the Bradford Method to measure disruption to the workplace when people are sick. It’s far more disruptive for someone to take 8 single sick days, than one week where they had the flu. Get managers to discuss this with their team, that when someone keeps calling in sick, it causes disruption, rather than annual leave or time off which can be planned for.
  8. Lastly you could look at bonus. Not for people who didn’t take any sick leave, because all that does is make people who are sick come into work and spread their germs around! But for people who didn’t get a cold or flu over winter due to taking precautions. This might be money, or it could be some time off as a well done!


The thing is, people are human and will take sick leave. It’s not natural for people not to take any sick leave (although some senior management teams think that’s entirely reasonable).  However as an HR Advisor it’s about having different suggestions for managers to use to manage sick leave in their team, and also for you to look at sick leave for your whole company.

If you’re keen to hear more ideas about delivering excellent operational HR, we’d love to see you at the HR Advisors Conference. New dates have just been announced for London on 11 – 12 October, Wellington on 30 – 31 January and Auckland on 27 – 28 February.


For more the UK conference click here.

For more about the NZ conferences click here.


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This entry was posted on July 15, 2016 by in Operational HR work, Operational v Strategic HR Work and tagged , , , .

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