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7 workforce planning tips to reduce absence

Today has been dubbed ‘National Sickie Day’ - which many believe to be the worst day of the year for employee absenteeism.

In 2014, an estimated 375,000 people called in sick on the first Monday in February, which cost the UK economy £34 million in lost productivity according to HR consultancy ELAS.

The most common reasons given by employees for calling in sick included:

  • Illness - genuine or otherwise
  • Job search - the first week in February sees the highest number of job interviews in the year
  • Pay day hangover - for many, last weekend was the first pay cheque they’ve received since before the December festive break…giving cause for celebration
  • Feeling low - winter weather blues

With this in mind, how can workforce planning help you to reduce absence levels and ultimately boost employee retention?

Developing work-life balance policies and procedures collaboratively with employees will help to demonstrate your organisation’s commitment to their wellbeing. 

For these to be effective all levels of management need to buy into the approach and supervisors must be trained and have the tools and incentives to maintain the policy.

Furthermore, creating shift patterns that promote work-life balance is critical to preventing employee burnout and absences.

Here are seven best practice tips for designing shift patterns that support employee health, wellbeing and work-life balance:

  1. Rotate shifts every 2-3 days or every 3-4 weeks, otherwise adopt forward rotating shifts
  2. Limit consecutive work days to between five and seven days
  3. Restrict long shifts, night shifts and early morning shifts to two and three consecutive shifts
  4. Allow two nights full sleep when switching between day and night shifts
  5. Use tools such as the HSE Fatigue Risk Indicator tool to help compare different shift patterns and their associated risk and fatigue levels
  6. Limit shifts to 12 hours including overtime, or 8 hours if work is demanding, monotonous, dangerous or safety critical
  7. Minimise reliance on additional hours such as overtime to cover holidays and other contingencies

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