Is it time to add absence management to your counter-fraud strategy?

This week’s headlines of record numbers not working in the UK due to ill health make somber reading. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) state that over 2.5 million workers are currently absent due to health problems.

Whilst it is of course only right that genuinely incapacitated workers are supported to the hilt by responsible and caring employers, the question remains whether enough is being done to investigate the veracity of these latest absence figures.  This bears out in the feedback our corporate clients are sharing with us as they try and manage this challenge in support of both employees and the business.

One area of concern is the introduction of some would say over-generous self-certification policies which is an area that deserves greater scrutiny, particularly at a time when public sector absence remains significantly above that in the private sector. Despite these stark and expensively collated statistical comparisons, the application of more robust investigation remains largely non-existent.

Perhaps the solution lies in taking a more focused look at workplace absence, including the utilisation of covert surveillance, particularly where internal statistics on non-attendance start to show suspicious patterns.

Absence management surveillance’ refers to the practice of monitoring and tracking employee absences in the workplace. It involves using various tools and technologies to collect data on employee attendance, leave, and time off. The primary goal of absence management surveillance is to ensure compliance with company policies, identify patterns of absenteeism, and manage employee productivity effectively. This is not simply ‘Big Brother’ monitoring but also a means for employers to develop an effective dashboard that can help them spot trends that could be related to issues relating to mental health issues and other concerns not immediately identifiable to employers or line managers.

 Despite these surveillance tools being available, it is unclear why employers are either unaware of their existence or reluctant to exercise such tools when the statistics suggest a period of absence may not be all that it seems.

The reality is that if left unaddressed, unauthorised absence in a workplace can spread faster than any airborne medical virus.  The ethos of ‘everybody does it’ takes hold where the compassion of an employer is seen as a weakness and advantage is duly taken. In some cases, there simply comes a time in absence management monitoring where a re-set is required and the employer needs to demonstrate that they are not a soft touch.

The right tools deployed deftly and appropriately

afford a business the opportunity to either help support an individual where illness is not the issue or relieve itself of a malingering employee.  It sends the most powerful ripple effect message to the remainder of the workforce.  

One large multi-national organisation we worked with managed to halve its absence rate following sensible interventions and requisite action.   If applied with respect and compliance it can be the best investment a business can make.

When implementing absence management surveillance, it is vital that employers consider the relevant privacy laws and regulations that govern the collection and use of employee data. It is crucial to strike a balance between monitoring necessary for business operations and respecting employee privacy rights.

While absence management surveillance can be useful for managing workforce attendance and productivity, it should be used responsibly and ethically, employers should use the tools with the driving aim of fostering a healthy, sustainable and positive work environment. This motivation when paired with the right policies and procedures allow a company to take action when facing malingering behaviour and provide support for more deep-rooted issues where different interventions are required.

By Roger Bescoby, Director of Compliance at Conflict International


Get in touch

Can our private investigation experts help you? Contact us in confidence.