How schools, academies and colleges can tackle absence at the start of the new academic year, saving time and money

Figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)[i] reveal for the first time that work-related stress, anxiety or depression accounts for over half of all working days lost due to ill health in Great Britain – with 15.4 million working days lost in 2017/18 as a result of the condition, up from 12.5 million the previous year.

education sector

The teaching profession is seeing rising numbers reporting mental health problems, with figures from the Liberal Democrats[ii] last year showing that one in 83 teachers were on long-term leave of one month or more for stress and mental health issues in 2016/17 – up 5% on the previous year.

According to Adrian Lewis, Director at Activ Absence recording and keeping track of absence using technology can help schools save time and money, reduce the numbers on sick leave and enable them to offer support to teachers who may need it.

Adrian Lewis says, “Sickness absence not only costs schools money, but it can have a detrimental effect on pupil’s education, as well as impact staff morale, recruitment and retention. Tackling sickness absence should therefore be a priority.  One way to do this is to invest in absence management software.

“This software enables the school to immediatleylog the staff absence then alert managers they are sick, making it easier for the school to plan the day ahead and sort out cover in time for lessons. It can help reduce key skills shortages, as well as support the return to work process. It’s also less time consuming than recording absence on timesheets or pieces of paper.

“Schools can track absence patterns and spot trends such as a teacher always taking a Monday off, which over a period of time could be the initial signs of stress. The system always prompts return to work interviews, so managers can sit down and discuss any issues and offer support if needed. 

“Schools also benefit from having an instant overview of who is off and when, whether this is for meetings, sick leave or annual leave for administration staff. Investing in this software will not only reduce sick leave in the long run and make tracking it simpler, but it could help improve teacher wellbeing too.”

One school that is reaping the benefits of using this technology is Bootham School in York. Zoe Cooke, HR Administrator for the school says, “I find the system simple to use and highly intuitive. Information is easily accessed and clearly displayed. The reports can be customised to deliver management information as and when required and scheduled to run automatically. I have set up various alerts within the system which trigger e-mails to me/the HR manager/line manager if certain criteria are met.

“We use this information to inform positive interventions, as line managers are able to discuss any issues with their staff as soon as a pattern of absence emerges. This has had a positive impact in reducing absence and reflects the supportive ethos of the school.

“The online return to work form gives a coherent structure for line managers to follow when conducting interviews with staff and prompts them to fully explore any adjustments that may be needed to facilitate a phased return.”

Another school benefiting from using this technology is Arnold Lodge School in Leamington Spa. Sanj Dhadda, Operations Manager says, “Accessing the information we need from a HR perspective is amazingly simple, and the alerts that are sent through to line managers are such a useful tool.

“The data is transparent so any individual can see their own records and logging absence or leave requests are so simple that training is not required. Everything is pretty much a couple of clicks and you can’t get things wrong.”

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Author: Editorial Team

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