Managing staff absence during lockdown | myhrtoolkit

Published on May 29, 2020 by Camille Brouard
    Absence · HR · Staff management
Managing staff absence during lockdown

Absence management has long been a complex issue for businesses – and now, during the COVID-19 lockdown, this is truer than ever. We recently hosted a webinar on absence and holiday management during lockdown, with HR director and business owner Tracey Hudson, which you can now watch on-demand:


Here we’ll provide an overview of Tracey’s main points in the webinar, before we moved onto a lively Q&A session, as everyone had a lot of questions - particularly around furlough!

The changing landscape of absence during lockdown

Staff absence has become much more complex during lockdown, as there are now new types of absence and reasons why someone is absent from work. For instance, many businesses have put employees on furlough due to the coronavirus crisis, but the reasons why can vary – it goes beyond who is working and who is on furlough.

It’s important to communicate appropriately with each employee, considering the reasons why they are on furlough, which can include:

  • Not having enough work available
  • Being on long-term sickness absence
  • Staff shielding for themselves or on behalf of a dependent
  • Being pregnant or on maternity leave

Someone who is on furlough due to long-term sickness absence or shielding would benefit from a different style of communication to someone who is on furlough due to a lack of available work. Getting these communications right can help you avoid potential grievances later down the line.

Different types of absence and payments

The current absence options have also had an impact on payment considerations, as staff on furlough are paid differently to those on sick leave receiving statutory sick pay (SSP) and/or company sick pay, or compensation in relation to other forms of paid leave. For instance, a company cannot claim furlough pay for an employee at 80% of their wage while also claiming the two weeks’ SSP available to companies with 250 or fewer employees.

Tracking absences during lockdown

Tracey also discusses how important it is to accurately track and record absences, as having evidence of the company’s decisions and communications helps them keep everything clear and transparent. To help avoid issues, it is best practice to have copies of any furlough or shielding letters and related communications with staff.

Fit notes

There are effective strategies for obtaining fit notes during lockdown, for example asking employees to get a self-isolation note for absence online instead of going to their GP. You may also want to consider relaxing your position on absence for sickness during lockdown, as it may not be as easy for an employee to get a fit note at this time.

Watch the webinar to find out more

To get more tips on how to manage absence effectively during and after the lockdown period, as well as examples of the questions UK business owners have around lockdown and staff absence, make sure to see our webinar on holiday and absence management during/after lockdown.

Tracking absences with myhrtoolkit

Myhrtoolkit helps SMEs with absence management as a versatile system for recording and tracking staff absence. Plus, with more staff working remotely now, tracking letters and key documents has become more challenging. Myhrtoolkit's document management functionality helps you keep an audit trail of key employee communications around absence, so all the information you need is easily available.


Read more from our blog

How coronavirus has impacted the biggest causes of staff absence

Remote workers and e-presenteeism: how to manage it

How to manage unauthorised absence from work

Picture of Camille Brouard

Written by Camille Brouard

Camille is a Senior Marketing Executive for myhrtoolkit who writes on topics including HR technology, workplace culture, leave management, diversity, and mental health at work.

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