Absenteeism is the term given when an employee is habitually and frequently away from work. This excludes paid leave and occasions where an employer has granted a worker time off
While you probably know that absenteeism is an expensive problem to have, you may not realise just how much unscheduled employee absenteeism could cost your business. For most companies, the responsibility for managing the situation has fallen primarily on immediate supervisors. These supervisors are often the only people who are aware that a certain employee is absent.
However, what continues to be of concern to the management is that almost two out of three employees who do not show up for work are not actually physically ill.
Pointedly, employees who are absent on sick leave for long periods of time can cause disruption to your business. It is important to manage their absence properly and to help them return to work as soon as possible. In managing this, you need to consider making reasonable adjustments to the workplace or the employee’s duties to help them return. Failing to manage sickness absence properly can give rise to claims for discrimination.
But unfortunately, some employee absences are based in less legitimate reasons and this is where things can get tricky for managers and team leaders.
Managing unplanned absenteeism has never been easy task for employers. However, the following steps can help manage absentees and to ensure a seamless operation.
Develop an attendance policy to your employee handbook; The specifics of your attendance policy depends a lot on your particular team and industry, but here are some guidelines for what to include. Attendance, timekeeping, and protected leave, vacation days overlap to some extent, some of this information may be spread across one or policies.
Pay attention to protected leave days; In enforcing your absenteeism policy , you need to watch out for employees who may have a legal entitlement to leave .Employment Act 2007 provides numerous leave-related protections to employees , including maternity leave, paternity , sick and sometimes compassionate leave .
Provide wellness support If an employee is absent due to personal issues, like bereavement or mental health problems, you should provide support both when they are absent and on their return to work. Support will likely make them feel happier to return to work earlier and prevent repeated absenteeism. You could also consider offering your employees time off in lieu and/or flexible working time. This will ensure people feel like they get a good work-life balance and that you value their need.
Find workarounds when an employee is out; It can be difficult for employers, particularly smaller employers, to work around excessive absenteeism in a cost – effective way. Depending on the nature of work, temporary employees may be able to help fill the gaps and this may include training employees so that different people can step into different roles when necessary.
Terminating the employee; This is the final stage in the disciplinary process whereby the employee is dismissed for an inability to comply with the company’s requirements for attendance at work. Dismissal can only take place with the written authorisation of a senior manager and HR.
When an employee is ready to return to work at the end of the leave entitlement, or sooner if they wish, you will need to make sure that you give consideration to certain things such as enabling them to return to their old position or similar ones if they have been out for more than six months or flexible working to assist with childcare if they were away on maternity leave.
With this in mind, it’s important to make sure your policies and procedures are up to date. As employment lawyers, we know how important managing absence can be.
Finding an employment law expert to guide through the process would help significantly in reducing the risk of claims against your business.
The writer is partner Latent & Associate Consultant.