The role of the School Business Manager (SBM) is extremely diverse – finance, HR, administration, IT, facilities management, H&S just to mention but a few responsibilities – and due to the multi-faceted role of the SBM, it is sometimes very difficult to act strategically and/or prioritise which tasks need to take precedent over others as many SBMs find themselves “fire-fighting” or their “strategic time” being hijacked by a heating failure or a toilet blockage!

In 2016, the CiPD reported that sickness absence in the public sector was averaging 7.4 days per annum, this represents a huge financial difficulty for schools and academies because of lucrative sick pay schemes for educational employees and the ever-rising cost of supply.

Good monitoring and management of sickness absence is a crucial part of the SBM role, as investing time in this exercise can help to keep agency supply budgets under control, to reduce staff absence insurance premiums and to support the well-being of employees ideally before they go off sick. An understanding of the real reasons for absence can help schools to proactively manage the welfare of employees – a happy healthier workforce can, and will, pay dividends in terms of improved teaching and learning in the classroom and raising standards of performance across the school generally.

At SAM, we recommend SBMs do the following:-

  • Try not to have more than 6 absence types that you are monitoring (e.g. Sickness, Paid Authorised Absence, Unpaid Authorised Absence, Maternity/Paternity Pay, Annual Leave, Pregnancy Related Illness). All causes for absence can easily be recorded under these headings, in SAM these are called Illness Categories.
  • Use a pre-determined list of illness categories that fall under these absence types so that reasons for absence can be better monitored (e.g. dependant illness could fall into either the unpaid or paid leave of absence type). Ask SAM for our recommended list of illness categories.
  • Train administrators on applying the absence types and illness categories correctly, good data in equals good data out.
  • Keep good quality absence information to ensure the school/academy is complying with the DfE Workforce Census framework and support informal and formal proceedings absence proceedings, including dismissal on the grounds of medical capability and helps protect against the potential consequences of poor data reporting – i.e. Workforce census compliance issues, grievances and Employment Tribunal proceedings for unfair dismissal or discrimination claims.
  • Ensure line managers, senior leaders and governors have regular reports on staff absence at management, department and school level, and a good working knowledge of how to interpret such reports and use this information to improve attendance.
  • Keep a consistent and indiscriminative track of sickness triggers, doctor’s appointments, medical appointments, and all other types of paid and unpaid leave.
  • If you haven’t already, perform your role in conjunction with a school administrator. The administrator can help you to accurately record absence, track the return of doctor’s notes/self-certification forms/return to work forms, track that absence meetings are happening for all staff hitting triggers, absence targets are being set and monitored, notes/information about absences are being appropriately and confidentially stored and reports for line managers/department heads/senior leaders and governors are being run and reported upon.

With the above in mind, SBMs can have some comfort that they have done everything possible to control those elements of the school budget which are easily impacted by staff attendance, as well as helping to improve staff welfare and most importantly directly helping to raise standards in the classroom as staff attend work more.
If you need a refresher on how to get the most out of your SAM reporting, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the SAM team. If you don’t have SAM and would like to know more ask us for a free demo, call 01924 827869

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