Until recently one of the most challenging parts of my role as School Business Manager of a large primary school was managing staff absence. I was responsible for managing leave requests, sickness absence and return to work procedures for 89 staff members.
Our opportunity to tackle staff absence and reduce the time and cost of administration came when we withdrew our HR and payroll services from the local authority. When researching other options, we discovered absence management software Activ Absence, a cloud-based solution which provides absence tracking, staff holiday planning, tailored reports and analysis and a return to work process all in one place, accessible on any device. We chose the software to streamline the absence management process and give the School Leadership Team (SLT) greater visibility of absence within their teams.
One of the key benefits is that the workload of staff absence is now shared as each leader takes responsibility for managing absence in their team. This change to management roles required approval from the SLT.
There are many benefits of using Activ Absence. Previously managing holiday leave had been complicated. Staff had to notify their line managers of any approved leave, however, this often didn’t happen.
The line manager wouldn’t know their team member was due to be off, so they would have to find cover at short notice. Now leave requests go directly to the line manager so they can plan cover in advance, they are also immediately notified of any sickness absence. Staff must complete return to work forms online and the system prompts team leaders to follow up with a face to face discussion.
Staff can access the system on their mobiles and this includes a calendar showing when colleagues have leave booked which is helpful when planning time off.
The system is completely transparent, absences are monitored and recorded in an absence dashboard using a traffic light system. This makes everyone more accountable and we’ve noticed a significant reduction in sickness absence as a result. Now when someone’s sickness absence flags up as red in the system they are also more likely to come and have a conversation about it.
Managing staff absence was a huge task and used to take me four to five hours a week, but now I spend less than an hour on it.
I’ve set up monthly reports for payroll, insurance and Department of Education census data and while I still input this manually, it’s all at my fingertips and much quicker.
The best thing is we can now provide staff with more targeted support for their sickness and absence. Tracking absence allows us to spot any trends or patterns and identify when someone might be struggling. We can then talk to them and uncover any issues and advise them of the support available to get them back on track.
Annie O’Kane is school business manager at Chadwell Primary School, in Chadwell Heath, Essex