How to Avoid a Staffing Crisis this Winter

Statistics show that during the winter months, sickness absence levels rise as cold weather bugs strike, chronic health problems flare up and stress levels rise in the run up to Christmas. For care home managers, this can mean a perfect storm of staffing problems leading to difficulties in maintaining cover, time lost covering rotas and increased pressure on remaining staff.

Failure to investigate periods of absence or to support staff on their return to work can make matters even worse, leading to extended periods of sickness or in some cases, staff leaving altogether. However, guidance from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) suggests that the increased use of line managers in managing absence at work, can be an effective tool in improving attendance levels.

A CIPD survey of over 1,000 employers found an increase in the number valuing the involvement of line managers in absence management. 28% said that line managers taking responsibility for absence management is in their top three most effective approaches for managing short-term absence and 20% reported it as an effective approach for managing long-term absence.

Read on to learn how involving your own line managers in absence management could help to avoid a staffing crisis this winter.

Staff Absence

According to the CIPD, the 5 leading causes of short-term absence are minor illnesses, stress, musculoskeletal injuries, family responsibilities, and mental health problems. Although some of these causes may be unavoidable, early and effective management and support can help to reduce absence and minimise the adverse effects on your care home.

4 Steps to Avoid a Winter Staffing Crisis 

  1. Carry out immediate return to work interviews: 4 out of 5 organisations surveyed reported that return to work interviews were helpful in managing absence. By training line managers to carry out these interviews, you can help ensure they take place promptly, identify reasons for absence and put in place support measures, as well as acting as a deterrent to future absences.
  2. Set clear attendance standards: Almost three-quarters of organisations reported that the use of clearly understood thresholds at which reviews are carried out was helpful in improving attendance. Your line managers can increase awareness of these thresholds during supervision sessions and staff meetings and even warn staff in advance if they are in danger of breaching the threshold.
  3. Share absence records: Sharing information about absences with your line managers helps to encourage a team approach and will enable them to monitor and support staff who may have issues that could lead to absence. Your line managers are likely to be closest to any absentees and are often most able to offer support or even spot particular absence patterns.
  4. Use disciplinary measures if needed: Almost two-thirds of organisations found that using disciplinary procedures to address unacceptable absence was helpful in cases of persistent absence. Although your line managers may not be able to lead disciplinary procedures, their involvement in any disciplinary process will reinforce to other staff their role in absence management.

For more on best practice in care service recruitment and retention, take a look at Care Quality Matters: actionable tips and essential resources for Registered Managers.

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