As a fleet manager, it’s likely you’re all too aware of the huge impact unplanned employee absences can have on your company. At best they give you rescheduling headaches while at worst they lead to a loss of productivity and revenue.
But while you need your business to run effectively, you must handle absence with sensitivity, showing support to those who take frequent sick leave and looking at ways you could help them reduce their time off.
Here are our top tips for managing absenteeism.
1. Create a clear attendance policy
The first step in controlling unplanned absence is having clear-cut company guidelines that are well-communicated and acted upon consistently. This way your drivers will understand how absences will affect them and any repercussions they may have. Employees should also be made aware of the procedure for calling in sick, including having a designated person to talk to and knowing what information is needed, such as a doctor’s note. The policy should include information on what an employee needs to do on returning to work, such as having a return-to-work meeting.
2. Monitor absenteeism
Whether you prefer the traditional pen and paper approach or choose to invest in specialist software, you should keep track of all absenteeism in a spreadsheet, logging any notes and official medical documentation. Being able to review the number of absences among your drivers along with their reasons for them will help give you a sense of how to approach the situation should regular sick leave with any one employee become an issue.
3. Manage the problem
If you notice an employee regularly calling in sick you need to talk to that driver in person. Approach them conversationally not confrontationally in order to discuss what’s behind their absence, and work out possible solutions or ways to manage it. Regardless of whether that person has genuine recurring health issues or you suspect they’re abusing the sickness policy, sensitivity is imperative. Similarly, check in regularly with employees who are on long-term sick leave, and talk about how you can help them return to work when the time is right.
4. Create a satisfying work culture
As a fleet manager, you have a duty of care to your drivers, so making sure your employees are happy at work should be an important part of your culture. But it also has benefits for your business, including increasing employee motivation and leading to less unplanned days off. It’s something we can all relate to – it’s much easier to roll out of bed every day for a job that gives us satisfaction, at a workplace where we feel appreciated and recognised for what we do.
5. Introduce a wellbeing programme
But remember, a happy workforce is about more than simply paying a fair wage – research shows wellbeing is one of the main factors driving employee satisfaction. It’s no secret that a healthy lifestyle leads to improved physical and mental health, so ensuring your drivers have access to fresh, nutritional food, plenty of opportunities – perhaps even incentives – to exercise, and work schedules that allow for a good work/life balance should not only lead to less employee sickness but also create a more positive, inspiring work environment.
6. Watch for early signs of stress
Stress is a major cause of longterm absenteeism, so try to get on top of it before the solution becomes a six-month layoff. Again, talking to the driver and working out what you can do to help is key. But sometimes, regardless of what wellness programmes you introduce, external emotional and social factors such as relationship problems can be beyond your control. Bupa recommends seeking advice from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) and mental health charity Mind, which has a guide to supporting employees with mental health issues.