Businesses should not only be looking out for their people when they fall ill, but they also need to be proactively managing all forms of absence in order to keep their business moving. Larger companies are likely to have dedicated resources and/or software to help them do this, however this is less likely to be the case for smaller companies.
In October 2016 we surveyed 504 SME decision makers and 1,005 SME employees in order to understand how SMEs manage planned and unplanned absences in their business. This included wanting to know what kind of complications they faced when organising employee absence and how much support is available to sick absentees.
Our research shows that while SMEs are often the most vulnerable to issues that arise from not recording absence, they tend to be the least prepared. Almost a third (31%) of SMEs do not record sickness absence well and 44% admit they face administrative and organisational problems when recording employee holidays.
It’s therefore no surprise 39% of SME managers want support to help them manage absence better. This is an opportunity for advisers to provide additional value to employers, helping them to improve employee wellbeing and mitigate the impact of sickness absence on their business.
Online absence management programmes could help employers improve. Of those already using one, a staggering 72% would recommend implementing it, with a third (33%) revealing that it has actually helped to reduce the amount of sickness absence they face.
Managing absence well also matters to insurers of income protection products. Reliable early notification of an absent employee allows the insurer to intervene early to help the employee back to work. Our research shows that 1 in 7 employees have been absent from work for four weeks or more in the past year due to sickness, so even a small workforce needs to prepare.
Our research shows that SMEs need support to help them better manage absence in the workplace. This is not only important for them, but also for insurers given the positive impact that better absence management can have on sickness absence and therefore claim duration.
In addressing both aspects, there is an important role for advisers. Integrating online absence management and return to work support with long term sick pay insurance is, we believe, a very effective model for providing comprehensive support to SMEs tackling these issues.