An avoidable absence is one that should not have happened in the first place or lasts longer than necessary.

Avoidable absenteeism can be reduced if employers take a holistic, strategic approach – implementing effective Prevent, Respond and Return to Work strategies.

Avoidable absenteeism can be reduced by ensuring your absence infrastructure is aligned with best practices in the following areas.

Customized Health and Wellness

Research suggests that those workplaces that demonstrate a caring attitude for the health and wellness of their workers are likely to have greater success in managing workers’ compensation, disability and absence costs. Such workplaces may offer a menu of cost effective, risk-reduction programs that are customized to meet the needs of workers. These workplaces also equip their employees with on-going support to maintain healthy lifestyles.

Medical Intervention

Return to work success for injured/ill employees is based, to a significant extent, on early intervention. The early intervention process starts with proper employee notification of an absence at day zero. An immediate response by the organization through the execution of its procedures will ensure proper management of the absence. The use of a third party to assess and evaluate the appropriateness of an absence is critical to properly managing absences within an organization.

Staff Education

An essential component of a successful absence management program is the widespread understanding and support of all stakeholders. Ongoing education, review of absence performance and open, honest communication about the program’s objectives, successes, failures and future plans are powerful tools that can alter entrenched attitudes and build trust between individuals.

Clearly Defined Accountability

The strength and effectiveness of a worksite absence management program often depends upon the extent to which responsibility, authority, and accountability are defined and assigned. Responsibility in an effective disability management system means clearly delineating the roles, functions and duties of all stakeholders and defining the ownership of performance of the absence program.

Policy and Procedures

Effective workplace absence management programs require consistency between the intentions of employers and the expectations of employees – well defined, and effectively communicated, policies and procedures. The establishment of principles and guidelines that can gradually shape the expectations of workers and others is a key pillar of an effective absence management program.

Privacy and Confidentiality

All employers must adhere to the privacy standards set forth by the federal and provincial governments under Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). Employers should take a proactive role in protecting employee information and initiating a privacy protocol that protects the personal information of both their employees and any parties they deal with. By taking these measures, employers will in turn protect themselves against the perception by employees (and their unions) that medical information is being misused – undermining the effectiveness of an organization’s absence management program.

Plan Design

Casual, short and long-term disability plans protect employees from a loss of income while providing incentives to reduce absenteeism and encourage an early and safe return to work. These plans are most successful when integrated within a disability management program that streamlines structure, coordination, and administration to support early intervention and assertive claims management.

Tracking & Measurement

Determining the total cost of workplace injury and illness can be difficult, particularly when it comes to calculating the indirect costs, including lost productivity and additional administrative costs. The initial reporting and notification of absences at “Day 0” of an absence is critical to minimizing the length of any absence. Also, proper and real-time notification of managers of an employee sick absence facilitates a more stream-lined management process to effectively make internal changes and manage the absence. Trend and data analysis are also key to an effective, compliant absence management program.

STD and Workers Compensation Case Management

Conducting a full analysis of your short-term disability and worker’s compensation programs to identify the causes and cost drivers of the highest risk categories, including mental health, is one of the most effective ways to reduce avoidable absenteeism as part of the return to work phase of a comprehensive absence management program. In addition, this analysis should include a review of the worker’s compensation appeals process/structure to identify opportunities for greater efficiencies.

Are you concerned about the impact avoidable absences might have on your organization?