5 tips for employers on how to manage staff absence this Easter

Have you heard about the Easter 'holiday hack'? Due to when Easter falls this year, people who book just nine working days leave can enjoy 18 consecutive days off work (from Good Friday on 14 April until the Bank Holiday on 1 May).

A lot can happen in 18 days – what if there's a first aid emergency and your usual first aider is away?

Make sure you have sufficient first aid cover over the Easter period (and any other time people are off) with our top tips to manage staff absence. 

5 tips on how to manage staff absence

1. Identify any risks associated with staff being away.

As well as creating extra pressure on the remaining members of your team, staff absence affects your first aid provision. If something was to happen while your usual first aider was away, there could be serious consequences for the organisation if it failed to meet legal requirements.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says, "The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 require you to provide adequate and appropriate first aid equipment, facilities and people so your employees can be given immediate help if they are injured or taken ill at work.

"It is important to remember that accidents and illness can happen at any time. Provision for first aid needs to be available at all times people are at work. You will also need to increase your provision to cover for absences."

2. Check when people have requested time off.

Whatever system you use to manage leave requests, make sure it's kept up-to-date and check it regularly. It's important to know when your first aiders/appointed persons will be off work so you can plan for this.

This is especially important if you're a small business, as you may only have one person who covers first aid duties; if that person is going away, you'll need to train someone else before they go.

3. Plan a handover to ensure responsibilities are covered.

When people are off, it's important to ensure their work is covered by other members of the team – including any health and safety duties.

The HSE recommends that you consider (as part of your first aid needs assessment) whether you have sufficient cover for when your first aiders/appointed persons are absent, including what cover is needed for:

  • annual leave and other planned absences (e.g. maternity/paternity leave, off-site working or training)
  • unplanned and exceptional absences (e.g. sickness, carer's or compassionate leave).

If your usual first aider/appointed person is away, you should have a 'back-up' person who has had the relevant training and can cover first aid responsibilities for the duration of the absence.

4. Make sure people know who is covering the absence.

When someone is away, they should let people know who to contact in their absence; for example by putting an out-of-office message on their emails.

You should have health and safety posters on display in your workplace; it's a good idea to update these with the name of the alternative first aider while the usual first aider is away.

5. Consider how first aid can reduce absence from illness/injury.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), common causes of absence include:

  • minor illness
  • musculoskeletal injuries
  • home/family/carer responsibilities
  • acute medical conditions
  • back pain.

First aid training can help to prevent minor accidents and illnesses from becoming more serious, and in turn, reduce the amount of working time which can be lost due to illness or injury.

Do you need extra first aid cover?

There's still time to book a first aid course and train extra staff before the Easter break (Friday 14 – Monday 17 April 2017).

Why not check availability near you and see if someone in your team would like the opportunity to become a back-up first aider?

Check availability and book a first aid course

First aid at work – your questions answered (HSE; 2014)
CIPD Absence management study 2016

© British Red Cross 2018