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Absence data tells the story
01 Dec 2017

Good managers know their employees. They engage individually and understand their motivations as well as the difficulties each may be facing. They work with their team to achieve great results.

Poorly managed absence can create productivity losses in teams and agencies across the APS.

When dealing with unscheduled absence, managers are encouraged to work through a process to determine if there is a problem, and if so, identify the cause of the problem and how to best respond. This includes identifying if:

  • there is a pattern of frequent short-term absence
  • the employee seems motivated to work, but is experiencing barriers
  • the employee seems able to work, but is not motivated
  • there is an ongoing illness or injury where support is critical
  • the absence is related to ongoing carer responsibilities where innovative solutions could be developed
  • the employee is facing too many hurdles returning after a long absence.

By working through this process, managers can effectively respond to unscheduled absence on a case-by-case basis. There are many solutions to tackling absence by reducing barriers to work and engaging employees.

Absence data can tell the story. Information can be gained from individual absence data, team and/or agency data. The APSC collects data for the whole of the APS and works with agencies to share innovative solutions to engage staff and reduce barriers to absence. Within the APS, the average unscheduled absence rate in 2016-17 is still high at 11.4 days, although it has dropped slightly from the previous year.

Clear expectations, when is a text OK?
01 Nov 2017

As a manager, do you and your employees have an agreement about how you communicate absence?

Is a text ok? Does it need to be before 9.30 am? Should I call my manager and highlight the day’s work issues? Do I need a doctor’s certificate? These are just some of the questions that employees often consider before reaching out to their manager about an unscheduled day of absence.

To avoid misunderstandings, a simple and easy way of dealing with absence is critical. Each manager and their team should develop some practical ways to manage absence. Clear expectations are a great place to start to develop good communication and build relationships with your team.

Managers can drive positive attendance by setting early, clear and realistic expectations in line with the team’s culture and individual requirements.

Attendance expectations can be clarified:

  • with potential recruits
  • at induction
  • within the probation period to observe attendance patterns and to identify and address concerns early
  • through positive messages that convey the importance of attendance, productivity and employee welfare.
  • by framing discussions on leave policies as employee benefits rather than as entitlements
  • when discussing flexible work arrangement

An employer’s expectations about attendance need to be clearly communicated to all employees. Similarly, a manager needs to be equipped to respond to unscheduled absence.

Sick at work?
01 Oct 2017

Are you doing yourself and your colleagues a favour by being present when you are not fully fit?

Does presenteeism have an impact on unscheduled absence?

Presenteeism is a term used when employees attend work but are unwell, have an injury or are generally not engaged. Evidence suggests that turning up can sometimes be a false economy. As well as not being fully productive employees that are sick or injured and attend work are at a greater risk of worsening symptoms. Those that are sick and contagious also increase the risk of other employees contracting an illness. This leads to an increase in overall absence.

Evidence suggests that line managers may influence presenteeism. While reducing the use of unscheduled leave is important, it is also important that managers pay attention to the wellness and performance of their team when at work. Managers have a range of options to support those that are ill and injured including assisting in return to work, preventative measures, work design and flexible work practices such as part-time and/or work from home.

One important factor contributing to employees coming to work when they are unfit to do so, is work-related stress and perceived pressure to attend work. Negative impacts of presenteeism on individuals within agencies could include:

  • worsening health with no opportunity for recovery
  • greater performance degradation
  • an individual unable to perform inherent requirements of their role.

The absence management toolkit will help you to better understand how to support employees to in healthy and productive attendance.

Missing work
01 Sep 2017

Most of us access personal leave at some time or other, for a range of illnesses and injuries.

In most cases, it's a day here or there for short term issues. But what happens when days become weeks, when the illness or injury is more serious? Or when short term absences become increasingly frequent, perhaps indicating a problem that goes beyond ill health or injury? What are your responsibilities as a manager, and how do you help get the best outcomes for your staff and your workplace?

The absence management toolkit and its section on a manager’s responsibilities for long-term absence will help you to better understand how to support employees to return to the workplace after long term absence.

Evidence shows that people who are out of work in the medium to long-term are at greater risk of negative health outcomes. The more time spent away from work, the more difficult it is to return.

The psychosocial impacts of work absence may include:

  • depression
  • erosion of work skills
  • decreased income and social status
  • loss of social support networks
  • decreased confidence
  • decreased sense of self‐efficacy.

Missing work influences recovery or successfully living and working with an ongoing illness or injury. The workplace can have a huge impact on how quickly an employee can return to work. It should be safe, flexible and accommodating. Make use of the absence management toolkit to ensure that you can help your employees to return to the workplace as soon as it is safe to do so. It's the best thing you can do for them!

Spotlight on personal leave
01 Jul 2017

Did you know that the first entitlement to sick leave came about in 1907?

When first introduced, under the Shearers’ Award, a worker could only be absent from work if unwell. Throughout the last century, broader concepts of paid leave for personal and family emergencies began to be accepted and personal leave entitlements are now legislated for all Australians.

For APS employees, personal /carer’s leave can be taken for illness and where a family member or housemate requires care because they are ill or have an emergency. This leave is cumulative for each year of service and is transportable across APS agencies. However, it cannot be paid out when an employee leaves the APS.

It is important for employees to provide evidence that leave is being taken appropriately. Most APS agencies ask for evidence of personal leave once 2-3 days has passed, or when 5-8 days per year are taken without evidence. Often this is a medical certificate, but can sometimes include other evidence such as a statutory declaration or letter from a childcare centre. When taking leave, you should to notify your place of employment as soon as possible. Managers and colleagues need to know that you are safe but unable to attend work, as it allows them to reassign your work if necessary.

Positively influencing unscheduled absence
01 Jun 2017

Absence management is a hot topic across the APS. While poorly managed absence creates productivity losses, a proactive approach leads to positive outcomes for individuals and organisations.

We have identified five factors that can positively impact unscheduled absence in teams and organisations, and we are developing a campaign to promote these across the APS.

  • Expectations on attendance are clearly communicated.
  • Managers are equipped to respond to unscheduled absence.
  • Timely and simple absence data is available to employees and their managers.
  • Managers act early to identify if there is a problem.
  • Where there is a problem, managers and employees work together to develop a joint plan.

Managers are supported in taking a proactive approach through data, evidence, tools, strategies and case studies in this absence management toolkit. The toolkit provides clear guidance on strategies to manage attendance, boost employee engagement and support wellbeing. This includes processes for managers to work through when dealing with unscheduled absence. This toolkit is constantly evolving and we invite you to access it on a frequent basis.

Working flexibly in the APS
01 Apr 2017

The flexibility of job sharing, working remotely, accessing study leave or working part-time is a reality for many APS staff whose agencies have made new agreements under the Workplace Bargaining Policy 2015.

These arrangements allow employees to balance family, caring and other responsibilities, as well as interests alongside their work commitments and career goals.

We’re pleased that our data shows  that employees who have access to working flexibly are increasingly enjoying the options that are available to them. Within the APSC, we’ve seen a 50% increase in staff accessing study leave and a 2% increase in the number of part-time employees since the commencement of our new agreement in July 2015. We encourage all APS staff to understand the facts about the Bargaining Policy, particularly if you are preparing to vote for a new agreement.
A flexible workplace is more productive – so ask: If not, why not?
01 Feb 2017

An ‘if not, why not?’ approach to flexible work arrangements has been rolled out in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

High performance is important at DFAT, but equally is flexibility. It’s for people with or without caring responsibilities. Flexible work practices are now the new ‘norm’, helping DFAT become a more modern, responsive workplace where people are more productive, have a higher job satisfaction, and perform better. The new flexible work policies were published on the department’s intranet last week.

Staff who took part in the earlier trial said they felt more satisfied, motivated, valued and productive at work than non-flexible workers. Managers are encouraged to adopt a team approach, leading ongoing team discussions about making the workplace flexible while still being committed to performance. It’s all about reciprocity, trust and communication which builds the culture of successful flexible work arrangements.

DFAT will monitor how the new policies impact on work, including through a staff survey. Of particular interest is the impact of flexible work on career progression and the take-up of flexible work arrangements by men. Workshops for managers on leading flexible and high performing teams are also being held. This approach to flexible work is one action outlined in DFAT’s  Women in Leadership strategy, which aims to maximise performance and capability by enabling all women and

Last reviewed: 
10 August 2018