Shared strategic vision

Team meeting

  • Be clear about where sickness absence fits into the wider staff wellbeing agenda.
  • Set robust, measurable objectives.
  • Develop and agree a simple, clear process.

Be clear about where sickness absence fits into the wider staff wellbeing agenda

It is important to ensure that your leadership team and all other stakeholders have a shared view of where sickness absence fits into the strategic vision of the organisation. It is also key to ensure that this vision is clear to both leaders and staff, and understandable for all. You can find out more information on developing a clear vision from our case studies. 

Managing sickness absence is not about stopping absence it’s about prevention and supporting staff to remain in work when possible. In situations where this isn’t possible, continue to provide support and keep in regular contact until they can return to work. 

Remember, sickness absence, is only one measure of staff wellbeing and therefore one strand of the overall wellbeing work. It is helpful to consider this fully so that a clear and consistent approach can be undertaken and communicated. 

Set robust, measurable objectives

Evaluation will let you understand the impact your strategy is having. Think about what your sickness absence approach aims to achieve, and the overall goals that performance will be measured against.

Set out the objectives or the work you are doing and include these in your evaluation plan. 

  • The objectives should always be clear, provable and relevant to your role and the remit of your strategy.
  • When dealing with reducing sickness absence, a number of external factors beyond your control can affect this so make sure that your objectives are not impossible for you and your team to achieve.
  • If your objective is to reduce sickness absence make sure the percentage reduction is achievable, consider whether this is in all areas or targeted areas.
  • If you are looking at preventing absence how will you measure this? Measures typically used include return to work meetings conducted, occupational health referrals and rapid access referrals.
  • Robust objectives are key in your evaluation and help you to define and measure success.

You can find out more about how to evaluate on our evaluation web page.

Develop and agree a simple, clear process

Make sure your sickness absence policies and procedures are simple and easy to understand and implement. 

  • When reviewing policies and procedures make sure you involve staff, managers, unions and key stakeholders.
  • Listen to what works, what doesn’t work, whether it is clear and simple, or is too complex.
  • When considering the stages refer to Acas to ensure minimum requirements are in place and do not add extra elements if they are not needed.
  • Consider developing a managers’ guide to support the policy including FAQs, or you can link to our everything you need to know about sickness absence resource.
  • Think about the process for dealing with the highest reasons for sickness absence – if you have rapid access processes for physiotherapy or stress make that clear and communicate this well.
  • Ensure the policy and process is clearly and regularly communicated to continually capture new starters.
  • Create one central place for staff to find information on sickness absence, find out more in our communications guide.

Health indicators

In addition to the above you must carefully consider the indicators used within the policy and the language used to describe them. Ensure that you have based your indicator on what will work best for your organisation. This will be informed by organisational knowledge, national available data, what has been used previously and how this has been applied in practice. 


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