June 17, 2024

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Tracking absence is key to addressing mental health issues in the workplace

This Mental Health Awareness Week (13th – 19th May), Adrian Lewis, Director at Activ Absence urges UK employers to track absence closely, following research from the CIPD[i] that revealed mental ill health is now the number one cause of long-term sickness absence for over one in five UK organisations.

A further study from mental health charity Mind[ii] last autumn revealed that poor mental health at work is widespread, with half (48%) of all people surveyed saying they have experienced a mental health problem in their current job.

Adrian says, “By using technology to track absence, employers can identify when people are taking regular days off sick, or more days off than usual which could be a sign that there may be an underlying medical condition going unnoticed and unchecked.

“Current absence management software highlights recurring trends and patterns that provide a much clearer insight for employers. It also prompts line managers to follow a ‘return to work’ process when someone has been off sick. Conducting a return to work interview is vitally important as it gives managers the chance to proactively check the health and well-being of staff and understand the reason for absence.

“Line manager training is an essential part of this as they see employees every day. With the support of occupational health, they can be trained to spot the early signs of stress and depression, and to communicate to staff that mental health issues are as valid as physical illness.”

Another benefit of using absence management software is that employers can also use it to stay on top of annual leave entitlements. The importance of taking time off away from work for people’s health is well documented, however, according to a survey by Glassdoor[iii] the average UK employee took just 62% of their holiday allowance last year.

Adrian says, “Employers want to encourage people to take their full holiday entitlement as they know it’s good for health and wellbeing, but many don’t have an efficient system in place to ensure that this is happening.

“Absence management software allows employers to stay on top of staff holiday planning and flags up when someone has not booked any holiday or used their full leave allowance. Managers can then speak to the individual concerned to find out why they aren’t taking time off. It also prompts them to remind staff to book time off work regularly throughout the year, with the added advantage that they can plan properly to avoid too many people booking holiday at the same time which can put extra pressure on those left manning the fort.”

Adrian concludes, “Mental health issues are a growing problem, but there is a lot more employers can do to recognise the signs, encourage a culture of openness and offer support where it’s needed. Understanding your staff and getting to the root causes of absenteeism is a good place to start.”

[i] https://www.cipd.co.uk/about/media/press/260918-manager-mental-health-guide

[ii] https://www.mind.org.uk/news-campaigns/news/half-of-workers-have-experienced-poor-mental-health-in-current-job/

[iii] https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/uk-employees-fail-to-use-holiday-entitlement/