According to the CIPD, the most common features of organisations’ approaches to absence are disciplinary procedures, line management involvement, leave for family circumstances and return-to-work interviews. Bearing in mind that you want to cut out AWOL scenarios from your office but retain talented and important staff it may be best to find a happy medium. It’s no good cracking down hard on your employees if you don’t understand the difficulties they may face and return to work interviews can be an effective way of tackling this without being confrontational. While many bosses draw the line at duvet days, employing aspects of the Work/Life Balance may just confirm to your staff once and for all that they are trusted and worthwhile. You are in charge and should make it clear that you won’t be manipulated. If individuals are repeatedly taking liberties and their absence is putting pressure on colleagues then it may be time to act and employ disciplinary procedures. But in the short term, the ‘softly, softly’ approach could help avoid taking events this far – and save your business time and money. Three steps for tackling absence: 1) Return to work interviews: An interview with the employee to identify and address any problems that may have caused their absence. Following this, employers may choose to recommend stress counselling, a programme of rehabilitation, or occupational health involvement. Line managers can often be delegated to carry out such interviews, but you should be aware of the outcome. 2) Work/Life Balance: The government initiative which encourages employers to be more flexible in their approach to their employee’s working and domestic lives. More details of this can be seen at www.dti.gov.uk/work-lifebalance

3) Check your contracts: Your employees’ contracts will set out what action can be taken in the face of repeated absence. You can ask for doctor’s notes, and if necessary refer your employee to an independent doctor. Your HR manager should have the details.