This study investigates the characteristics of first line managers (FLMs) required to manage absence 'effectively' within Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council. An important theoretical contribution to knowledge is made by focusing specifically on the role and impact of FLMs which is an issue that has previously been identified as being important, but has not been researched specifically. A wide range of literature was explored from the fields of health management, psychology and business management to present a clear picture of the key issues involved in absence management. Discussions are provided on personal, organisational and group level characteristics which have been found to have an association with levels of employee absence, before looking at best practice in the management interventions that can be used. Five major hypotheses were generated from the literature and were further broken down into 21 testable sub-hypotheses. A positivist approach was taken using a quantitative methodology in order to meet the objectives of this study. This consisted of a range of research methods including a survey to FLMs, policy analysis and analysis of internal organisational documents. Using this variety of methods a clear picture of existing practices was developed and then analysed. This extensive methodological approach makes an interesting contribution to this research field and is in response to some earlier criticisms of research designs in this area. The survey results show multiple statistically significant relationships between variables and levels of absence including; the age of the FLMs; the division (p=0.01) and departments (p=0.02) in which the FLMs work, and their levels of knowledge of the organisation's absence management policy and procedures (p= 0.048). This allowed the rejection of the null hypotheses and states that there is an association between these variables and levels of absence of the FLMs' employees. However, there are also other interesting results that are of high practical significance despite the results not being statistically significant. This includes looking at relationships between variables such as career history and relationships with other stakeholders, when correlated with the absence levels of the FLMs' employees. The main results from the other research methods utilised in this study demonstrate that there is some ambiguity over responsibilities for managing absence and that absence management is not fully integrated into associated HR policies. Despite attempts to implement best practice interventions, there remain some indications of differences between rhetoric and reality. Recommendations for the organisation include the need to include supplementary details in their absence management policy and to condense the seven existing documents into one comprehensive policy guide. In addition the organisation needs to support their FLMs so that they understand exactly what their role in absence management entails and how and when they should work in partnership with other stakeholders.
|Publication status||Accepted/In press - 24 Feb 2009|