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Helping staff balance work and family commitments can boost attendance

Posted on 14th December 2015

It's long been known that offering staff a good work-life balance can be the key to both attracting and retaining top talent, as well as keeping employees enthused and engaged. But did you know it can stop them taking unnecessary time off as well?!

According to research by Cezanne HR, more than one in four workers in the UK have thrown a sickie during the last two years. And figures also showed that one in 14 people have done it at least three times!

Sue Lingard, marketing director at Cezanne HR, pointed out that many people might regard throwing a sickie as fairly trivial.

However, she warned it can be "costly and disruptive" for employers, as well as unfair on colleagues who have to pick up the slack.

So why are people so happy to act this way? Well, in some cases, a few bad apples might simply have a poor attitude to their work, and this will probably be apparent on those days they do bother to turn up!

But often, workers might take sickies because they have issues outside of work and feel unable to be honest about why they really need time off. For instance, they might be staying at home because their child is ill or they need to look after another relative.

If you suspect this might be the case, perhaps it's time to try actively helping staff juggle their various responsibilities.

“Businesses that can find a way to help employees balance work and family commitments - for example, making it acceptable for employees to work from home, swap shifts with colleagues or make up time if they have an emergency, are likely to see positive impact on attendance," Ms Lingard commented.

There are plenty of knock-on effects of going down this road. You won't have resentful employees getting annoyed about having to fill in for absent colleagues and you'll be taking away obstacles for people with families who still want to do their job.

This ultimately feeds into increased staff and morale, which might in turn encourage your workers to talk up your organisation and capabilities as an employer. What better way to build a reputation as a great employer than having your staff raving about you?

Of course, having outside responsibilities is just one reason why some people are taking days off when they're not actually ill. The other common reason - sheer laziness - is harder to deal with, as you can't always prove that's why they're off work.

That's why it's important to have a strong recruitment process in place, so you can identify the most motivated and capable individuals and those with a strong work ethic.

Happily, 60 per cent of the workers polled by Cezanne HR don't feel that throwing a sickie is acceptable in any circumstances. Some 32 per cent feel it is okay to throw a sickie in some situations, while eight per cent have no problems with it whatsoever!

So while there is a clear majority who don't think it's right, it's still a fair proportion of people that are happy to ring in sick regardless of whether or not they're actually ill.

Therefore, there's a clear business case for doing whatever it takes to address this problem, and if this means tightening up recruitment and encouraging more flexibility among staff, this could be exactly what's required.

Of course, some bosses might be worried about being seen to pay lip service to working parents and alienating those employees without these kind of responsibilities and pressures. But the survey results show this concern might be unnecessary.

After all, nearly two-thirds of respondents said pulling a sickie if a child is sick is okay, and almost half were sympathetic to people having days off for other family reasons.

As long as privileges such as flexible working opportunities are opened up to everyone, staff across the board are likely to be happy, especially if it means they don't have to cover absences any more and can focus solely on their own work!