Absence management: 5 key features your HR software needs

We all know that accurately recording absences is often one of the most important but time-consuming responsibilities for HR.

Of course, it’s not just the process of logging when employees are on annual leave or off sick – it’s far more complex. Absence management is a strategic issue that impacts individual employees as well as the overall performance of a business.

In the UK, Public Health England estimated the total economic cost of sickness absence and lost productivity through worklessness, informal care giving and health issues, as over £100bn annually. However, given the impact of COVID-19 over the past couple of years, this figure is likely to have increased. For example, the CBI business group reported average staff absence rates amongst its members of 10% to 15% across the country at the start of 2022 – much higher than the usual rates of between 5% and 6%.

absence management self service

It isn’t just staff absence rates employers and their HR teams need to keep an eye on. It’s been reported that 90% of HR managers in the UK were seeing signs of burnout amongst their employees, and almost 45% of them have considered leaving their current roles because of the pressures of dealing with employee burnout. Clearly, preventative measures – such as discouraging presenteeism and helping ensure employees take holidays – are also required to reduce sickness absences in the first place.

It’s essential then, that hard working HR teams not only have a comprehensive absence management strategy, but also the tools with which to both support and enhance it.

Why HR software is critical in supporting effective absence management

It’s not uncommon for companies to have quite ‘manual’ absence management procedures. This is especially true of SMEs that may have experienced rapid growth, yet still rely on disjointed methods for recording and evaluating absences, such as spreadsheets, e-mails or paper-based systems.

The problem though, is that when an organisation has a fragmented or ‘ad-hoc’ approach to managing their employees’ absence, everything is a lot more time-consuming and difficult for HR.  Reporting is an arduous and complicated affair, legal requirements can be missed, and ensuring an adequate level of staffing to keep an organisation ticking can be a tricky business.

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be like this.

HR systems that include absence management features can do the job of tying together fragmented absence processes. They can also help streamline and simplify every aspect of paid and unpaid leave, including staff holidays, sick leave, parental leave and time-off-in-lieu – and provide you with the vital information you need to inform your absence management strategies.

To help you make managing absences that little bit easier, here are five key features you should look out for when choosing an HR system for your business:

1. Employee self-service

Self-service functionality is one of the best ways a cloud-based HR system can streamline HR processes and reduce admin overheads. Employee self-service enables both employees and managers to access and process absence information on both planned absences (such as annual leave), and unplanned leave (such as illness).

Real-time calendar and diary views give managers visibility over exactly what’s happening in their teams, and employees can check leave balances, request time off and register sick leave – all from one central, secure but easily accessible place. The best HR systems will have dedicated mobile apps too, meaning this can all be done via a device of your employees choosing, at a time that suits them.

2. Automated leave entitlement calculations

Good HR systems should be able to make all your employee leave entitlement calculations for you, ensuring holiday entitlements are calculated accurately. The best HR systems update them in real time based on exact working hours, local holidays or legislation – as well as your own company rules.

This type of functionality will save you hours of admin and ensures everyone in your business is allocated the right amount of time off; meaning you don’t have to worry about making a mistake with your part-time workers, or those based in different countries who perhaps have different leave entitlements. You can learn more about global HRMS features here.

3. In-depth absence reporting, analytics and histories

Reporting is perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of managing employee absence. Luckily, HR software that includes pre-configured absence queries – such as calculating Bradford Factor for example – can make it both simpler and a lot less time consuming for you to extract and analyse intricate data. This makes it easier to provide the ‘at a glance’ information your leaders may need to inform strategies or support key business decisions.

In addition, the right analytical tools that allow you to drill down into your records means you can start to investigate underlying information from different angles. When you can easily visualise patterns and trends in complex data, you can start asking the right questions needed to understand why they exist. This means a business can then be more proactive in its attempts to improve attendance, or to manage absence in a more balanced way (for example, if holiday leave isn’t being properly spread out).

Also, look for HR software that keeps comprehensive records of sickness history. This is so if you need to take disciplinary steps, you have the hard evidence to support your decision making. A good HR system should make leave far more visible so both managers and employees know where they stand.

4. Support for multiple absence types

It’s important to acknowledge that managing leave isn’t just about holidays or illness. There’s a multitude of reasons why your staff may need to take time away from work, be it because of a medical appointment, a family emergency, maternity leave or jury service.

With that in mind, it’s critical your HR software can flex with you and support multiple absence types that can be tailored according to department or location. This will help in providing easily accessible reporting that can help line managers make more informed and appropriate resourcing decisions.

5. Brand engagement tools

Lastly, although it’s always critical to consider an HR system’s core functionality, it’s important that you choose a platform that can reflect your own unique identity and the way your organisation works. After all, your brand identity should be visible at every one of your customer and employee touchpoints, so why not also in your choice in HR software?

Great HR solutions are used by an entire business – especially when it comes to absence management. So, enhancing crucial user engagement through an own-branded platform that can also evolve with your organisation should be a priority.

Look for a system that can reflect your brand and culture and ensure a personalised experience for all your employees. This should include the option to include your company logos and colour schemes.

Sign up to our newsletter