Or: why all Day 1 absence solutions are NOT created equal
Day 1 absence management is a constant challenge for every employer – and COVID only reinforced how essential it is to have great day one absence management solutions in place. Choosing your day one absence management or solution is not always a simple matter, though.
Before we start: this is what we are talking about.
Definition: Day 1 absence management solutions are those that are designed to enable employees to report their absences from their first day of sickness absence.
As the volume of unplanned absence started to rise in the first wave, many companies’ day one absence solutions and processes began to creak and fail as waves of new absences were reported.
By the time they had to juggle factors such as isolation timelines, test result determined return dates, and other impacts such as carer or parental leave, most HR teams or owners were at their wits end trying to keep things straight.
Issues with accuracy and completeness of information started on the very first day an employee reported in with COVID. Leaders and managers needed accurate, current data not just about Day 1 sickness absences. They needed deep insights and regular reports in order to plan resourcing and operations.
The pandemic only highlighted some of the issues that already exist with day one absence management solutions.
Choosing the best absence management software or solution isn’t easy. There seem so many routes to choose from.
What are the solution and software options for day one absence management?
You might choose an outsourced absence management helpdesk service,. This acts as a front-line call centre for staff to contact when they cannot come to work.
Perhaps you might ‘switch on’ or buy an extra absence function of your enterprise HR software. These often promise to enable absence management and connect it to payroll and ERP systems, and so on.
Many single purpose absence management software options exist – although these also often combine holiday and planned absence tools too. These are designed for smaller businesses.
You might even choose what seems a tempting and free solution and track who’s off and why in a spreadsheet. Or even use multiple spreadsheets in multiple departments and teams around the company.
Or you might choose our own solution – which doesn’t fall into any of the above categories. Absence Manager is a day one absence management software module that is designed to either standalone OR connect to other closely linked processes, such as HR case management and employee health management.
Managing Day One Absence: The Pros and Cons of different Day 1 absence software options
There are a number of essential things that good absence software must do for your business.
The core function of day one absence solutions is to enable employees who are sick to easily report their absence in a way and at a time of day that suits them. They should be safe in the knowledge that it will inform their employer in a timely way, without delay or errors in translation. They are also used to report absences for other valid reasons, such as caring for a sick child or going to a medical appointment.
They must also inform line managers who manage workloads, resourcing and rostering. Systems should provide prompt visibility of who is off, and when they might reasonably be expected to return. That way, managers have the right information required to manage that process.
Critically, they must also inform management decision-making. They should provide executive leaders and other managers with current organisation-level insight into sickness absence and projected returns. This is business critical information, due to the aggregated high cost of productivity losses, temporary staff, and other factors.
Where many absence management solutions fall down
- Employees informing companies about an absence via out of hours message systems are often uncertain whether their absence has been recorded or their manager informed.
- Day one absence reporting via outsourced day one absence management services suffer inbuilt delays before daily reports are output. Employer clients usually receive static reporting that can already be out of date.
- Some day one absence service helpdesks may route staff to occupational health nurses to explain health reasons for absence. This can be costly for the company and seem intrusive for individuals, especially when reporting common causes of absence such as colds.
- Simple absence recording software packages often have no way to capture causes of absence in a structured way. Each absence is a record, but they act as standalone silos of information separate from any other employee records. They do not build an absence picture that could alert their employer to an emerging performance, occupational or clinical health need.
- Using spreadsheets to track absence management can seem an obvious and apparently free choice on every desktop. Yet, their very accessibility can present risk. They lack strong security features so can easily compromise employee privacy. Spreadsheets are too easy to share, email, duplicate and alter, and include only limited collaborative working features. Read our earlier article on why using spreadsheets for absence tracking and employee data isn’t smart.
- Absence modules within HR management systems are sometimes chargeable extras. They may enable some connections to other workforce systems too. However, these systems are more usually optimised around core HR functions such as recruitment, talent, productivity, and risk management. They cannot normally connect absence with employee health management.
- Absences recorded into departmental or site-based standalone systems sit in a silo. It is a huge challenge to aggregate such information into an enterprise report. Reports are time consuming to pull together and are always retrospective. That means leaders are wholly unable to see or make decisions based on real-time, current and complete absence information.
In fact, only Empactis is specifically and fully designed for the challenges employers face.
It helps not just to capture day one absence data, but generate the comprehensive, real-time insight needed to manage the cost and risk of absence and inform operational planning effectively. It is unique in enabling you to manage, monitor, and connect day one absence insights to other essential processes and workflows relating to employee health, occupational health, employee relations and HR case management.
Reporting of a day one sickness absence should be only the start of a continuous process. Treating it as a standalone activity is not sufficient to enable companies to make informed workforce decisions.
Sickness absence reporting must flow seamlessly to inform managers fast. It must enable their decisions on the day and appropriate, informed handling of the employee’s return to work process thereafter.
Absence management solutions need the capability to build employee records around absence. This enables patterns of absence or health issues to become visible.
Then they must be able to connect smoothly and securely to other essential employee management workflows. Otherwise they cannot aid ongoing management of any connected health, employee relations or HR case that may result.
Any day one absence management software solution that fails on these criteria is no longer fit for purpose in a modern organisation. Employers need to know who is off, why, and when they are coming back. As well as any health or other needs that may be connected to their original absence.