June 2022

Better absence management starts with data

SME employers are going through a tough time: while business may be growing, that growth is putting pressure on existing staff given how hard it is to recruit new talent. Frank van der Starre of insurance company Felison Assuradeuren explains how better insight into the health and well-being of your employees can help reduce the pressure and improve operating results at the same time. 

Felison is an authorised underwriter that also provides sick leave insurance. "We are a kind of Independer (a well-known insurance comparison site in the Netherlands) for sick leave insurance, which we offer via insurance advisers. We can submit quotes from eight insurers. Moreover, we also do the claims payments and counsel sick employees," Van der Starre explains.

But what is the link between insurance and a vital workforce? Data is key here. "Our goal is to collect a large amount of data which we then use to actively and proactively help companies to get and keep their employees healthy."

Data, analysis and action

Data alone does not ensure better absenteeism rates. It’s what you do with that data. And that is where an SME employer can use some support. "We try to provide that by running all personnel data and sickness reports through our system. So we manage all the data and we make it transparent for each employer with a dashboard and an accompanying analysis report. This analysis - which cannot be traced back to individual employees - gives the employer insight into what is going on. It is then up to the employer, together with their advisor, to take action if necessary."

A high absenteeism rate compared to the sector average is a clear example of this. "If you know that, you can start investigating the causes and make a plan to get the absenteeism down. We can offer the relevant services. We have our own health and safety service, but also work with partners who offer other services. We do that for a reason, because it is also important for us to maintain a healthy absence portfolio. We are an authorised underwriter and must ensure a good return to retain our authority to act on behalf of clients. We also want to ensure that a stable premium policy can be pursued."

Benefit for employer and insurer

The advantage for the employer is not only that workers stay healthy and absenteeism costs are reduced, according to Van der Starre. "You also create a working environment that appeals to people. And that results in a well-run company that also appeals to new talent. We know that this is a major factor since we provide sick leave insurance for 75,000 employers. Incidentally, we are seeing staff shortages across the board."

You also create a working environment that appeals to people. That makes for a well-run company

Offering data and insight into absenteeism figures also allows the insurer to set a correct price for insurance that is in line with the risks. "The more insight, the narrower the safety margin the insurer needs to maintain in the event of disappointing figures. Data means you pay a premium that justifies the risk you are covering."


So the benefits are clear, but in general SME employers seem to make little use of the absence reports, says Van der Starre. "We think that medium-sized employers do not have the capacity to devote the resources. They don't have an HR department or a human resources officer and simply don't get around to having a conversation with the employee concerned. Hence one of the services we offer is a discussion about the report with a personnel and income consultant in order to identify what is going on in the company. We only see the data, the employer sees the story behind it. It’s when you bring those together that you can take concrete steps."

85 percent of the companies that have an RI&E have a noticeably lower than average absenteeism rate

To further increase the insight, Felison is developing a barometer with which an employer, by filling in a few questions, can quickly get a picture of the state of absenteeism at their company. "You immediately get a clear picture of whether you need to take action and who you can call on for help. We hope that employers and advisers will together set aside a budget for purchasing preventive services."

The lowest premium is not always the cheapest choice

Opting for the lowest premium is not always the smartest choice, Van der Starre continues. "Realise that the amount you save can be used up on additional absenteeism. So also keep an eye on the services you can use to limit absenteeism. If the report reveals a problem, the consultant/employer can contact Felison and we can look at what services we can offer for the case. That varies from HR services to legal services, but also basic things like drawing up an RI&E."

"The latter is often forgotten, but an RI&E is often the starting point for a sound HR policy. 85 percent of the companies that have an RI&E have a noticeably lower sickness absenteeism than average. With an RI&E, you really can see the direct result of actions taken in the figures."

Quick wins

The company report uses a traffic light method to show how a company performs in terms of absenteeism compared to similar companies. "We also give companies practical tools, for example by displaying ten aspects of absenteeism, most of which can be influenced by the employer. Take the absence protocol, for example: if reporting sick is too easy, it has a direct impact on your absence figures. By adjusting it, you can quickly achieve a serious gain."

In short: better absenteeism management starts with data, says Van der Starre. "You then translate that data into information and if that results in action, you can actually influence your absenteeism positively and deploy your personnel optimally. And that is reflected in the data. Ultimately, you ensure that you, the entrepreneur, can do what it was all about: being an entrepreneur."