Softworks Blog

Employers Struggling with High Absenteeism Due to ‘Secret’ Carers

Posted by Mairead Walsh on Mon, Oct 6, 2014

New research from CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, reports that more than one in three employers have reported an increase in absenteeism due to staff struggling to cope with their caring responsibilities outside of work. However, only one in six organisations have policies in place to help achieve a better balance between their home and working lives. 

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The annual CIPD/Simplyhealth Absence Management survey shows that savvy employers put policies in place to help staff fulfil their caring responsibilities outside of work while continuing to meet the demands of their job.

  • Flexible working arrangements are by far the most common type of support (68%), followed by compassionate leave (53%) and (paid or unpaid) carers’ leave (48%).
  • Two-fifths (42%) offer access to counselling services and three in ten offer career breaks and sabbaticals.
  • One in six organisations offer access to financial services (17%) or options to purchase additional annual leave days (15%).
  • Although only one in six employers say they have organisation wide policies or guidelines in place for carers, an additional two fifths report that they do offer support to individuals on an ad hoc basis.
  • The CIPD is now calling on more businesses to adopt a formal policy to support workers, and ultimately benefit business.

Dr. Jill Miller, CIPD Research Adviser, comments: “Supporting those with caring responsibilities to balance their work and home lives, and therefore retaining our talent, is a key issue. Recent UKCES research has predicted that there will be four generations working side-by-side by 2030. With this 4G UK workforce, employers are having to manage an increasingly diverse range of employee needs. We’re seeing intergenerational issues coming to the fore; and in particular, a rise in the number of people with caring responsibilities. And this is an issue that is set to increase for the growing ‘sandwich generation.’ As people have children later, and are looking after parents in the ageing baby boomer generation, they find themselves caring for both their children and their older relatives.

“It’s therefore absolutely vital that employers have strong wellbeing policies in place, and communicate the benefits of flexible working to their employees, who all have the right to request to work flexibly under new legislation. But most importantly, line managers need to receive adequate training on how to have constructive discussions with their staff about the various benefits available to them. And it’s proven that flexible working can improve engagement and productivity within the workforce. With this in mind, hopefully in the future more workers will be able to handle the demands of caring.”

Corinne Williams, Head of HR at Simplyhealth, comments: “Adapting both working practices and health and wellbeing initiatives to support the changing needs of today’s modern workforce is a must for organisations. The expectation that employees conform to rigid working patterns is becoming a thing of the past as demands on an individual’s time continue to increase. This ‘sandwich’ generation are operating at capacity and it’s essential that they receive as much support as possible to help them meet their commitments at home as well as at work. Although it’s great to see that this year a fifth of organisations have increased their wellbeing spend, it needn’t cost the earth. Understanding the issues affecting your employees and equipping line management with the tools they need to help support them is key to a healthy, happy workforce.”

Emily Holzhausen, Director of Policy at Carers UK, said: “3 million people are juggling work with caring for an older or disabled loved one. Without the right policies in the workplace and the support of good quality, flexible and affordable care services, these employees often feel unable to juggle it all, with millions feeling they have no alternative but to give up work to care. We estimate this costs business £3.5 billion a year, with extra costs to the economy and to the families themselves in lost earnings and pensions."

You can access the full report here. If you are looking to reduce absenteeism rates in your organisation, you may also be interested in downloading our free whitepaper Top Tips - How To Reduce Absenteeism In Your Organisation.



Topics: Time & Attendance, Absenteeism, Work-Life Balance

Webinar: How to Permanently Reduce Absenteeism

Posted by Triona Cahalane on Mon, Sep 8, 2014

How the latest in Time & Attendance and Scheduling can assist you to permanently reduce Absenteeism

Join Andrew Ferguson, Softworks CEO for a live 45 minute webinar onTuesday 23rd September at 3pm GMT/10am EDT (Not sure what time this is in your city? Click here for a Time Converter

By attending this webcast you will learn more about how the latest in Time & Attendance and Scheduling solutions are assisting world class companies manage absenteeism.

You will learn more about how the latest technology can assist you:

  • Track direct costs & indirect costs associated with absenteeism
  • Uncover persistent offenders before they have a significant effect on your bottom line.
  • Offer flexible work schedules and thereby discourage avoidable absence
  • Automate the entire ‘end to end’ absence management process and assist managers implement it in a consistent, uni-formal and fair manner.

Register Today

Topics: Webinar / Online Presentation event, Absenteeism

How to Use The Bradford Factor to Manage Employee Absence

Posted by Mairead Walsh on Mon, May 19, 2014

Most time and attendance systems simply track absenteeism.  Softworks solutions go deeper by focusing on the frequency of absences, problem areas and/or employees, which in turn, enables organizations to take proactive measures to improve attendance. For many organizations, the cost and disruption of persistent, short spells of absence are greater than for occasional, longer periods of absence. To address this problem, we have developed a formula based on the Bradford factor, which measures the number of incidences and the duration of each incidence to compute an absence score for each employee. I've set out below some further information about how your business can use the Bradford Factor to measure and tackle employee absence.

Why Many Organizations Use the Bradford Factor

The Bradford Factor is used by many organizations due to the fact that it both proactively discourages unnecessary absence in the first place, and it uses a set procedure to identify and tackle persistent absenteeism. The Bradford Factor measures the number of absence incidents and the duration of each incident to compute an absence score for each employee. Evidence from industry suggests; that the higher the score, the more disruption the employee’s absence is causing an organization. It is important to bear in mind if using the Bradford Factor that it is only one method of looking at absence and may not be appropriate for all organizations. The scores act best as a trigger to prompt line managers to investigate a case further.

How is the score calculated?

The Bradford Factor Score is calculated using the following formula: S x S x D where

  • S is the number of spells of absence of an individual over a given period; and
  • D is the total number of days of absence of the individual over the same period.

So for employees with 10 days' absence in one year, differently distributed, the score can vary enormously:

  • 1 absence of 10 days is 10 points (1 x 1 x 10) 
  • 5 absences of two days each is 250 points (5 x 5 x 10) 
  • 10 days of one day each is 1000 points (10 x 10 x 10)

Whereas using the traditional percentage method, all would result in the same percentage. Using this formula, Managers can see at a glance, the effects of employee absence on the organization as a whole as well as a comparison between departments.

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How is it used?

The Bradford Factor is generally used by organizations to identify employees with frequent short-term absences. Short term absences are often considered more disruptive than long term absences, due to the fact that, it’s often easier to make arrangements to cover an employee who is going to be off for long periods. Employees taking odd days off here and there are considered more disruptive to the business and a lot harder to plan for. They can have an immediate effect, and if recurrent, they are likely to arouse suspicions over the genuineness of the absences. The more frequent the absences the higher the score.
Managers therefore monitor scores so that if an employee hits a certain score/trigger point, further investigation or action can be taken. This in itself can act as a deterrent to employees who do take absence for non-genuine reasons. A number of organizations have reported that absence is reduced when Bradford scores are first introduced, which may be due to the use of this system, as a visible warning and deterrent to employees.

Things to consider if using

Bradford scores should not form the only basis for important decisions such as disciplinary action due to persistent absenteeism. Additional analysis and consideration of each individual case is an essential companion to the use of The Bradford Factor. Bradford scores focus purely on short-term absence and can therefore easily distract attention from the problems of long-term absence. The safest approach to using this measure is to ensure that important decisions; are not based around Bradford scores alone. These scores act best as a trigger to prompt managers to examine further.

The Bradford Factor also concentrates on the number of instances and length of time absent, but doesn’t pick up on other trends such as days of the week, particular shifts, sporting events, etc. Therefore, the analysis is limited in terms of tracking absenteeism trends. Furthermore, the Bradford Factor calculation is worked out for each individual employee so it can be reasonably complicated to work out on a departmental/company-wide level. This problem can however be surmounted, with the use of a good time & attendance system, which can automatically calculate the Bradford Factor points score, rank employees and trigger alerts when issues arise.


There are no hard and fast rules for using the Bradford Factor; it is effectively down to each individual organization to decide how it will use the score. Used effectively, the Bradford Factor can undoubtedly reduce absenteeism and serve as a deterrent to persistent offenders. Studies have shown that by educating employees about the Bradford Factor, and informing them of their score on a regular basis, absenteeism can be dramatically reduced. This is largely down to employees realizing that taking the odd day off here and there will quickly multiply their Bradford Factor score. The Bradford Factor places a value on the absence which an employee can clearly see. Where the absence is not absolutely necessary, this can serve to deter absenteeism. If you would like a demonstration of Softworks Absence Management Solutions, contact us today. 

Topics: Absenteeism, Absenteeism, Working Hours, Bradford Factor

How to Manage Complex Hospital Rostering/Scheduling - Case Study

Posted by Mairead Walsh on Thu, Jan 23, 2014

In an era when computers can handle almost everything, it always amazes me that some healthcare providers still rely on spread sheets, clipboards, notice boards, and from time to time a bit of sweet talking and arm twisting to function!  

Healthcare providers are tasked with trying to deliver one of the most important services in our society in an efficient and cost effective manner with limited resources, while also attempting to balance the skills, needs and desires of their employees.  The sector is undoubtedly facing significant operational challenges with demand rising and resources falling.

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Considering the limited resources, the logical next step has to be finding new ways to improve operational efficiency, and the subsequent value of care to patients. This is where technology has excelled in recent years and it is a missed opportunity to ignore these advances.

The latest eRostering / scheduling solutions can assist with managing the complex balance of workforce supply with service/patient demand.  Agile employee scheduling/rostering, time and attendance and analytical insight can empower healthcare providers to optimise their workforce and make changes in response to internal and external changes in real-time. 

By automating these processes you can eliminate error prone paper-based rosters / schedules and excel spread-sheets along with time consuming administrative tasks.  Allocating resources where and when they are needed, is easily achieved via innovative automated scheduling tools. To see this in action take a look at how The Bon Secours Hospital achieved tangible results with automated Scheduling, Time & Attendance and Absence Management.

Find out how they achieved

  • Better Rostering and time management effectiveness
  • Increased efficiencies that benefited both employees and patients
  • Improved management information & reporting
  • Greater employee engagement & empowerment

The case study is free to download using this link

Topics: Time & Attendance, Labour Scheduling, Absenteeism, Rostering, Healthcare, Hospital Scheduling

How much do smokers really cost your business?

Posted by Mairead Walsh on Thu, Jan 9, 2014

By Oliver Mitchell, ACA

Before I get started let me state that I’m not a smoker and never have been one so obviously I don’t understand the cravings/compulsion to smoke. Setting aside all the obvious and known effects of smoking on your health, individually, societally and financially, what about the cost to the employer? I don’t understand why one employee should in effect be allowed an extra 2-3 WEEKS off per year compared to their fellow work colleague simply because they smoke. To save everyone jumping to their calculators to work out how it’s that much time, I’ve based it on the following formula.

Assuming a smoke break takes on average 10 minutes from the time you get organised to leave your desk to the time you return and start working again. Then let’s assume you take a modest 3 smoke breaks a day during normal working hours. That’s 30 minutes a day extra time to yourself that a non-smoking colleague would be working. Based that on a normal 5 day week, its 150 minutes a week, finally, let’s take it that there are approximately 46 working weeks in the year after annual leave/public holidays etc. (150*46= 6,900 minutes which is 115 hours or just over 15 days a year).

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In simple terms I think that this is totally inequitable and essentially unfair. I have to ask the question, why is it accepted as common practice? Why do nearly all companies allow smoke breaks during what’s essentially paid working hours - should the employer take a hit (excuse the pun) to their pockets because they employ smokers? Why should a non-smoking employee work longer throughout the year than a smoker!?

In money terms based on the calculation above, 15 days at an average salary of 40,000 equates to just over 2,600 a year (230 working days in the year, adjusted for Annual Leave). Perhaps smoking employees should get paid this much less per annum compared to non-smokers in the same role allowing them 3 ‘guilt - free’ smoke breaks a day?! Or simply ban smoke breaks outside of normal working hour’s altogether?

According to the Organisations of Working Time Act 1997, the general rule on breaks is that you are entitled to a break of 15 minutes after a 4 ½ hour work period. If you work more than 6 hours you are entitled to a break of 30 minutes, which can include the first 15-minute break. There is no entitlement to be paid during these breaks and they are not considered part of working time.

The other argument could be that as smoking is gradually being viewed more and more as socially unacceptable from the start of the smoking ban to the general perception of the public today perhaps the employers should be doing more to try to encourage and assist their employee’s to quit. How about offering health assessments given the common idea that most smokers would actually prefer to quit for health reasons, not to mention the constant increase in the cost of cigarettes (a 20 a day smoker spends approximately 3-4,000 a year).

I’ve absolutely no doubt that it’s incredibly difficult to quit smoking, I’ve seen my own family members succumb to the ill effects of it, but should the employer also suffer because their employees smoke? Can they do more to assist with quitting – should they have to? I have no doubt this is a debate that will continue on.

 Further blogs from Oliver Mitchell

Topics: Time & Attendance, Absenteeism, Working Hours

Workers turning to text to notify their boss of illness

Posted by Triona Cahalane on Wed, Jul 24, 2013

Absence ManagementA recent survey of 2,000 business professionals in the UK has revealed that approximately 38% of workers have used email or text to notify their boss or manager that they were sick and unable to come into work. Additionally, the figures also highlight that one in five of those surveyed revealed that they were “pulling a sickie” and felt too guilty to call.

The survey was undertaken by Intercity Telecom and looked at the way workers are communicating across the broad range of communications available. Looking further into the results, 47% of respondents said they email someone every day that they have never actually spoken to, while 41% said they will send a text or email if they need to deliver bad news.

Commenting, Andrew Jackson, Group CEO of Intercity Telecom, said:
“Choosing the right way to communicate can make all the difference to the working relationships that we build and helps avoid being misunderstood.”

Read Article in Full

Topics: Absenteeism

All work and no play is damaging family life

Posted by Mairead Walsh on Mon, May 20, 2013

According to new research a culture of 'all work and no play' is damaging family life in the UK, causing high stress levels, cutting time spent with loved ones and creating an inability to switch off from work.

The study was commissioned by health cash plan provider Medicash found that 83 per cent of working parents feel guilty about the amount of time they spend working, with 50 per cent saying it has a negative impact on relationships with their children, and almost half (45.9%), saying it caused problems in their relationship with their partner and caused them to neglect friends (25%).

Professor Cary Cooper, Distinguished Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University & Director of Robertson Cooper Ltd, said: 

"The fact that many people feel guilty about how they spend their time is hugely significant - it shows how important it is to maintain work-life balance.  The evidence shows that flexible working delivers to the business' bottom line, with employees feeling less guilty about how they spend their time and achieving a better balance between work and home commitments."

When asked how they thought it affected family life, over 50 per cent of respondents admitted to missing their child's sports day, school play or parents' evenings due to work commitments, 42.9% said they had worked through family holidays, and 58.8% admitted their children had complained about the amount of time they spent working.

Parents also said that work had caused issues with childcare, with just over 30 per cent (30.4%) having to organise for someone to collect the offspring at the last minute because they had to work, whilst 46 per cent of parents admitted to dropping children off at school or nursery when they were ill because they had to work and could not find a childsitter at short notice. Professor Cooper added:

"If we are slaves to work, our family life seems to suffer by default. We need the joint responsibility to promote a healthier, happier lifestyle; organisations must actively promote flexible working and employees need to take advantage of that opportunity - work smarter, not longer should be our mantra. Increasingly we are seeing employees turning up to work ill and delivering little added value, presenteeism does not enhance but undermines productivity."

The study also revealed that heavy workloads were responsible for increased stress levels, with over 60 per cent (60.1%) of respondents saying they found it difficult to switch off from work when at home.

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According to results, those most likely to feel guilty about working long hours are in professional services (29.3%), who were also the most likely to work on a family holiday (56.1%), and have children complain about their overworking (22%). They were followed closely by those working in finance, who were the most likely to suffer Sunday night blues (63.4%) and worry about work during the weekend (46.3%). 

"Given the pressures on people with increasing workloads, the demands by clients for the completion of work instantaneously and the ability to interface with people 24/7 through new technologies means that it is vital that people find time for their family during the weekends, family holidays and at least 2-3 nights a week - or they and their families will suffer and ultimately so will the organisation," explained Professor Cooper.

"The health implications of excessive working are very serious and should not be overlooked, often being associated with the development of health problems like heart disease, diabetes, stress and depression, which is not only damaging for personal relationships, but also the UK economy, leading to workplace absenteeism, which amounts to 10.4 million lost working days per year, costing UK businesses an average of £3.7bn each year. Keeping a good work-life balance helps both workers and businesses."

You can view the full report here


Topics: Flexitime / Flexible Working Hours Arrangement, Absenteeism, Work-Life Balance, Flexible Working

Canadian Report: Balancing work, childcare and elderly relatives

Posted by Triona Cahalane on Wed, Apr 3, 2013

Stress at Work

A recent study has found that a fifth of Canadian are working and having to care for both their children and elderly relatives resulting in higher absenteeism levels, increased stress and burnout.

It’s nothing new that people have always juggled family care with work but due to shifting demographics, challenges are escalating as the population ages, workers having children later in life, more women in the workplace and the population living longer. Additionally the recession and alternations in the labour market leave many professionals stressed and exhausted.

According to the report, carers are more likely to be absent from work, use company benefits and turn down promotions. They are also inclined to experience a reduction in productivity and decline in hours dedicated to work.

“People say they’re short of sleep, grumpy, they take it out on customers and colleagues at work. And these are our knowledge workers...who are expected to come in and be creative,” said Linda Duxbury, professor at Carleton University and co-author of the paper with University of Western Ontario’s Christopher Higgins. “This group is going to increase dramatically in size and in importance to businesses.”

The study called “Balancing work, childcare and eldercare: A view from the trenches,” focuses on highly-educated managers and professionals and is based on a national survey of 25,021 employees during 2011 and 2012 in Canada.

Employers wanting to attract and retain workers may need to adjust their strategies in order to facility the changing role of their employees to include for example more flexible working hours and employee assistance programs.

Please click here to read this report in full. 

Download free white paper: Download our top tips on introducing Flexible working into your organisation

Topics: Absenteeism, Work-Life Balance, Flexible Working

Impact of Bad Weather on UK Businesses

Posted by Triona Cahalane on Tue, Apr 2, 2013

Weather Conditions Affecting WorkplaceSevere weather has been revealed as the top cause of disruption to businesses in the UK over the past 12 months but some companies continue to underestimate it as a threat to business disruption and as a result are underperforming.

The findings come as a result of a new report by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). Managers estimate that recent heavy snowfall has cost on average £52,000 with some companies claiming losses of up to £1 million. Nevertheless when the CMI asked companies to predict the threats most likely to disrupt their business in future, bad weather barely made it into their top 10 list.

Adverse weather conditions affected 77% of organisations for the fourth year in a row with most common disruptions relating to travel and childcare which leads to workplace absences.

Ann Francke, CMI chief executive, said: "Snow in the UK is hardly unusual - yet too many businesses are allowing it to hit them hard. It's great that more businesses are using business continuity management, but too many are shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. A key part of any manager's job is making sure that the business keeps running, come what may, and that means planning proactively. Your business will cope better and recover faster if you plan ahead. Managers that don't are left counting the cost in lost business, damage to customer trust and reputation."

Please click here to download this report. 

Topics: Absenteeism

Blue Monday - How To Banish The January Blues

Posted by Mairead Walsh on Mon, Jan 21, 2013

How did you feel when you woke up this morning? If you woke up feeling a bit miserable, don’t worry you are not on your own and it will all seem better tomorrow :)

Today is “Blue Monday”, officially the most depressing day of the year.  According to psychologists, a combination of bad weather, financial stresses, and shattered New Year's resolutions have teamed up to make the 3rd Monday in January, the most depressing day of the year.

Employers see elevated levels of absenteeism during this time, with employees calling in sick with the flu or even Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Days are short and lack of light has employees feeling unmotivated.

While the “science” behind Blue Monday may not really be science at all, this time of year is a great opportunity for employers to think about their policies and what they are doing to bring work-life balance to their employees. Employees are dealing with lower motivation this time of year, and the feeling of a need to take action. How, then, as an employer can you assist them to get through it?

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Work-Life Balance

If you currently have work-life balance programs on offer, make sure that your employees are taking advantage of them. If you don’t currently offer flexible working, consider it for 2013. Flexible Working brings many benefits to an organisation and at this time of year, it enables employees to make the most of their daylight hours. Arriving and leaving work in the dark, can be very demoralising and flexible working gets over this problem.

Furthermore, during this time of year, it's not only work that suffers due to low motivation, but personal tasks do as well. When employees leave the office in the dark, there is little motivation to run personal errands. Stress levels increase, as more tasks end up not getting done and lists get longer. By assisting your employees keep on top of things in their personal lives, they will stay focused, motivated and engaged at work.

Could your organisation offer a better work life-fit?  We recently published a new white paper which you are very welcome to download and circulate free of charge. In this paper, we examine the pros and cons of introducing flexible working.  We tell it straight, based on 20 years’ experience in this area, so that organisations can make an informed decision on whether or not it is right for your employees, specific departments and/or your organisation in general. Click here to download


Further News about Flexible Working & Employee Motivation & Engagement



Topics: Employee Retention, Flexitime / Flexible Working Hours Arrangement, Absenteeism, Work-Life Balance, Work-Life Balance, Flexible Working, Motivation