Monday, 29 February 2016

Aon Benefits and Trends Survey shows nearly 40% of employers drive Health

Aon Employee Benefits, the UK health and benefits business of Aon plc (NYSE: AON), has found in its annual Benefits and Trends survey that nearly 40 percent of employers do not use any data to drive corporate health and wellbeing strategies or target costs.

The survey also showed, however, that increasing numbers of employers want to understand health risks affecting their employee population... read more

Friday, 26 February 2016

Avoiding the ‘Lergy’: How to Stop the Spread of the Common Cold

Adrian Lewis interviewed by HR News:

Cold and flu viruses are still cited as one of the main causes of short-term absence and often spread like wild fire through workplaces in winter as a result of germs passing from hand to hand contact.  This happens when someone has the virus on their hands, usually as a result of sneezing or coughing, and then touches a surface, such as a desk, keyboard, telephone or door handle.  These germs can then be picked up by other people who touch the same surface and this route of infection is the same for common colds, flu and a wide range of other viruses.
Ian Smith of workplace equipment provider, Slingsby, says that a massive rise in sickness absence is NOT inevitable and businesses can avoid the spread of the common cold by encouraging good, basic hygiene practices click to read more

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The Good, the Bad & the Downright Funny: Excuses for Sick Days

This years ‘National Sickie Day’ on 1st February came and went, and many an HR Manager was left rolling from some of the excuses they heard.
However, according to absence management expert Adrian Lewis, of Activ Absence, National Sickie Day is only one of many days where businesses see a sudden soar in ‘sickness’.
Adrian says: “It’s funny the trends you see when you start to record and monitor sickness trends and patterns.  For example, it’s far more common for employees to take a ‘sickie’ on a Monday or a Friday – and once HR have seen that for themselves, our ‘Days of the Week’ sickness trends report is one that our customers run most often!”
“Absence always spikes on the hottest day of the year, the Tuesday after a Bank Holiday and in between Christmas and New Year.  Then you will also see regional variances during sporting fixtures – for example, in England, it tends to be during a weekday football fixture – in Wales and Ireland, its the day after the Rugby!  These are definitely not good days to take a sickie – HR Managers are always going to view these sick days with a lot of suspicion.”


Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Activ Absence launches Activ Employee Documents

This January, Activ Absence has launched a new add-on for customers which will expand the HR features within the system.

The Activ Employee Documents offers a powerful HR confidential documents and records system.

It can be added to Activ Absence or Activ Appraisals to give your administrators access to a complete HR documents library that stores your confidential employee documents and records securely offsite.

This add-on is only visible to your HR team and gives the benefit of a completely paper free office for a nominal extra cost per employee.

Here’s some of the ways our customers are already using the add-on:

  • Store CV’s and Job Applications
  • Store Interview Notes
  • Store Employee References
  • Store Driving Licence & Passport copies (and track expiration dates)
  • Record Meeting Notes
  • Store grievance and disciplinary records
The add-on is very quick to deploy – and costs from just 30p per employee per month, however for a limited time we are offering existing customers three months free access with no ongoing commitment required.

To take advantage of this offer, go to or call Nikki Roberts on 01656 641088 (email

Activ Launches Absence Management Training Events

Activ Absence, the UK's leading absence management software company, have launched their first 'in person' Absence Management Training Workshop, which is due to take place on 17 March at 10.00 in Grimscote Manor Hotel in Birmingham.

The training will teach HR Managers and Head Teachers how to use best practice techniques to reduce sickness absence in their business, organisation or school.

The workshop costs £25.00 per person, but Activ Absence customers are able to send one delegate each free of charge.

Absence Management Expert Adrian Lewis said:

"Activ Absence is a great start to reducing sickness absence in your organisation - this workshop will help businesses who have invested in our software to get the best from it."

"Even if you still use spreadsheets or paper forms, or if you use a different method to control sickness absence, the techniques taught on the workshop will enable businesses to use absence management data to identify staff in need of extra support, to target wellness initiatives and delegates will learn the best way to handle return to work interviews."

Places on the event are limited and customers wishing to book a space can either do so online at or by calling 01656 641085.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

NHS in Crisis: ‘Wasted Billions’, Short Staffed

NHS staff could be forgiven for feeling demotivated this week, with allegations of waste, staff shortages and contract disputes being the subject of national debate.

Firstly, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce today that talks to settle the junior doctors dispute have failed.  He is also predicted to announce that the source of the dispute, namely new contracts, are due to be imposed on junior doctors from 1 August.    The secretary will deliver his statement to the Commons at around midday today, but the contents have already been made public...... read more

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Tackling sickness & absence could save the NHS billions, says Adrian Lewis

This week Lord Carter discussed the findings of his interim report into NHS provider productivity which looks at how the NHS can make savings of up to £22bn by 2020.

Some of the measures he proposes including smarter procurement and better management of staff rosters and a tackling ‘bed blocking’ as nearly one in ten beds is being taken by someone medically fit to be released.

Another area where savings was identified was in tackling staff absence. According to the review, £2bn could be saved across the NHS through better management of staff, with sickness and absence rates currently varying between 3.1% and 5% of staff.

With levels in the NHS well above the national average (i) this is certainly an area where improvements can be made. It has been reported that sickness absence in the health service is at its lowest rate for five years, however, the figures are still higher than other in other sectors.

Last year figures released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre show that sick days taken across the NHS have dropped by almost a day from 15.52 days a year in 2012/13 to 14.82 days in 2013/14; representing a fall in the absence rate from 4.24 per cent to 4.06 per cent year on year and is the lowest rate since 2009/10.

However, the average rate across all UK sectors according to the Office of National Statistics (ii) is 4.4 days per worker each year.

One way that the NHS could start to reduce staff absence rates is by implementing a robust absence management system to allow hospital managers to track sickness absence, as well as absence due to holidays and flexible working.

Organisations with these systems in place can expect to see almost an immediate reduction in sickness absence of between 20 to 30 per cent, simply because there is a formal system for recording and managing it which makes employees more mindful of their absence rates.

Managers are also able to track patterns in sickness absence. They can see if someone is regularly calling in sick on a Monday or a Friday and identify those who are regularly sick who might be suffering from issues such as stress.

Getting to the root causes of sickness absence is a vital part of reducing absenteeism. In a highly pressured environment such as the NHS absence due to stress is common and it’s important that managers are able to spot trends at a glance.

We work with several NHS trusts and having a formal absence management system in place has helped them reduce sickness absence. It’s something more trusts should have as collectively across the entire health service there are huge savings to be made by reducing sickness absence.

It will not only reduce the need to pay for extra resources to cover for absent staff but will also reduce the pressure on other staff that have to take up the slack when people are off sick, which can lead to improved employee morale.

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Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Disabled Workers – Don’t Fear them, Employ them!

HR News looks at the issues surrounding employment of disabled workers.  Includes an interview with Absence Management expert Adrian Lewis of Activ Absence.  Click here to learn more

Monday, 1 February 2016

Managing staff absence when the sides collide: Rugby -v- HR

Welsh Captain Sam Warbuton & Coach Warren Gatland
Image source:
Every proud Welshman thinks he knows a lot about rugby.  Expect, therefore, plenty of Rugby chat among 'armchair managers' in pubs throughout Wales as the Six Nationals tournament kicks off in Paris next weekend.

HR Managers may not care too much about rugby.  However, even as they struggle to get through today's 'National Sickie Day', wise ones will keep a watchful eye on the fixtures scheduled for next weekend.   (Scotland -v- England play in Murrayfield on Saturday and the all important Wales -v- Ireland game takes place in Dublin on Sunday afternoon)  

Why are some HR pundits predicting Rugby -v- HR ahead of the Six Nations?  Simple, HR teams recognise that staff absenteeism spikes around major sporting tournaments, even if key matches have weekend fixtures.

In Wales and Ireland a big drinking culture accompanies international games.  A Sunday match usually means an increase in 'Sickie Mondays'.  Meanwhile, Saturday games are prone to 'Ferry Fridays' as fans sneak off early with a 'mystery virus' to travel to the game.  It is an oft-reported anecdotal challenge for HR Managers that remains largely unaddressed.

One welshman who DOES know a lot about rugby (but not from his armchair), and also about absenteeism from work is Absence Management Expert Adrian Lewis.  With 20 years in cloud based HR software solutions (including market leading absence software Activ Absence) and more than 10 years in the absence management field, Adrian previously played for both his local team and the London Welsh squad, and still coaches his village team Bryncoch RFC.

A passionate welshman, he will be watching the Wales game but will also be keeping an eye out for the absence challenges it raises for his HR customers.   I asked him what advice he would be giving them in advance of the tournament:

1.  Be aware and plan accordingly

HR should keep an eye on sporting fixtures, carefully allocate staff resources and prepare for possible absences in advance.  Six Nations fixture dates are here!

2.  Make sure you have a clear absence policy

The single most important step HR can take is to make staff aware of your policy on sickness absence.  More than half of employed adults believe their work performance is negatively impacted when attendance policies are not fairly enforced throughout an organisation, so make sure it is enforced among management as well as staff.

3.  Educate your staff

Staff often do not realise that short term absence has a big impact on the company's bottom line and are more disruptive to the business than long term sickness. Raising awareness via the Bradford Factor encourages them to book planned annual leave days rather than a ‘sickie’.  You could also ask rugby fans if they want to book Friday or Monday off (subtly letting them know that you are aware of the fixtures!)

4. Use return-to-work forms and interviews

Often sporting event sickies come from the same regular offenders.

However, if they haven't had to complete a return to work self-certification form, or had a return to work interview it's difficult to take action.  Inaction sets an example to the rest of your workforce, too.

The self-certification forms are one of the most important steps you can take in reducing both short and long term absence, and should be followed with a non-judgemental return to work interview on every occasion.

The process enables you to quickly:

  • welcome employees back, 
  • check they are well enough to return to work, 
  • identify the cause of the absence, 
  • find out whether they have a disability (including invisible ones like asthma, diabetes, epilepsy etc.),
  • gently explore any early signs of stress,
  • identify if the absence has any work related cause,
  • highlight any health and safety issues.

Keeping accurate records of forms and interview notes is also vital so you can identify patterns of absence.

Once a pattern is identified (and smart absence management tools can identify these for you using trigger point alerts), you can take action.

Sometimes a timely word from a line manager early on can prevent a pattern escalating into a major discipline problem involving unions, HR and legal teams.  Often, that 'quiet chat' (notes recorded of course) negates both the absence escalating and the need for further intervention.

5. Get rid of spreadsheets and paper forms!

Spreadsheets and paper forms create more problems than they solve and have a bad track record for storing HR information.  They are prone to error and offer no reportability.  Some accounts packages allow you to record information, but again, they create a dependency on HR for information, which means in practice that by the time HR get involved, there is already a big problem.

Cloud based absence management solutions are usually designed to empower line managers and they enable access of information throughout the business.  They normally save far more than they cost – and provider's like Adrian's "Activ Absence" normally offer a free trial anyway.

Adrian says:

"We are a market leader, and the full return to work process is built in to our software as standard.  With over 10 years of advising people on absence challenges, we can help almost anyone tackle absence issues.  However, it doesn't have to be us - there are a whole host of absence management solutions out there to suit businesses of all sizes and almost any of them are better than struggling. Spreadsheets are the problem - not the solution."

Of course, the welsh coach is keen to get back to his favourite topic - the first Wales game on Sunday.  I asked which team he expects to win -

"Tough call... but I'm obviously cheering for Wales!"