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Improving attendance: a case study

Ensuring that your line managers actively manage their teams’ attendance at work is a critical challenge for every business.

This case study illustrates a typical situation which our team helps solve for many different types of client, regardless of whether they are a manufacturing business or any other type of organisation.

The challenge

The company, which has around 600 employees, suffered from attendance levels and sickness absence levels were causing significant concern to management.

As well as the primary concern that sickness absence was being poorly managed in general, there existed a strong suspicions that not all line managers were correctly reporting staff absence and that, in some departments and particularly at the more remote sites, staff routinely covered up a variety of types of unauthorised absence by their colleagues.

In addition, relatively high numbers of staff were on long-term sick leave with little management, control or review of their absence being undertaken by their line managers or by HR.

The company was conscious that this poor practice appeared to be rife and that significant sums were at stake, both as a result of unauthorised absence and poor management of long-term absence. Consequently both the performance of the company and also its financial well-being were being hampered by this ‘black hole’.


The prospects of the company improving the absence management situation using internal resources were hindered by a range of cultural and operational barriers, including:

What needed to happen?

There was no ‘silver bullet’ which could resolve all of the issues. Fundamental change was required – in terms of procedure, sick pay entitlement, culture, line management responsibility and competence – in order to stem the financial losses being caused by such a poor absence problem.

Both HR staff and the line managers needed to be given robust tools to properly manage absence and then needed to be trained to have the understanding and confidence to deploy those tools when required.

What did Menzies Law do?

Our multi-disciplinary team of barristers, solicitors, HR consultants and L&D specialists worked in partnership with the senior management team of the company to devise a Change Programme, targeting all of the elements of change that were required to take place:

Our specialist employment lawyers and our HR consultant began by reviewing the situation and then planned a change programme timetable.

Our lawyers kicked off with making the necessary changes to staff contracts to remove the contractual right to full sick pay, and devised a contract variation timetable to roll these changes out across the workforce.

Our lawyers and HR consultant then reviewed and substantially re-wrote the company’s existing sickness policy, dramatically reducing sick pay eligibility. Using our decades’ worth of collective experience in this area, we included a range of provisions to make it much more difficult for staff to abuse the sick leave system (such as when staff go off sick with “stress” or co-incidental but unlikely illness when faced with a disciplinary allegation, performance concerns or other workplace situations that they don’t wish to face). Putting in place a range of measures to reduce the “tactical sickie” is a key skill of ours.

Our specialist trade union lawyers supported the company through challenging negotiations with the trade unions to achieve agreement over the required changes.

Our Learning & Development Specialist then put in place a suitable absence management training programme, delivering:

Our HR consultant provided consultancy to the company’s HR team on how to restructure the team to build the resilience and confidence needed, particularly in its approach to robust absence management. It was crucial to ensure that the HR advisers were knowledgeable as to the tools at their disposal, how far they could push things, and that they were motivated and empowered to deliver the required changes.

Our HR consultant also helped the company to make much more effective use of its absence data for the efficient monitoring and managing of staff.

Outcomes for our client

The effect of our various people management interventions was to transform the company’s sick leave levels from very poor to excellent, over the course of a few months.

The trade unions bought into the changes, appreciating the many benefits to all staff, students and the company as a whole that would be delivered.

The HR team now has a fit-for-purpose range of procedural tools for managing sick leave sympathetically yet effectively.

The company now has an accurate picture of staff attendance levels and its level of effectiveness in managing these.

The line managers have (for the most part) lost their fear and avoidance of managing sick leave and now appear to accept that it is a key function of their management responsibilities.

Production has benefited from a much-reduced absence of operatives and overall productivity has risen notably as a result.

And, above all, the large cost of the sick pay budget has shrunk to unprecedented levels, solving a major financial problem for the business.


For more information on how Menzies Law can help your business, please contact

Luke Menzies, Director

0117 325 0921

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