People are human, so they are susceptible to illnesses, injuries and other incidents that can keep them from reporting to work. But people are also human, so some are liable to abuse an organization’s absenteeism policy if it is inconsistent, incoherent, or non-existent.
Absenteeism is a serious problem for many businesses. When some employees are chronically calling off, showing up late, and asking to go home early, it can affect productivity, customer service, and even the morale of the other employees who do show up to work on time, every day.
That makes absence management one of the most critical tasks of any organization, whether they have 15 employees or 15,000. When absenteeism is managed poorly or policies are applied haphazardly and unfairly, it can eat into profits and undermine the culture of an organization.
Here, then, are 10 things you can do to improve your absence management so that your organization has a fair, consistent, and productive way to deal with employee absenteeism.
1. Have a Clearly Stated Policy
Companies that don’t have a clearly defined policy that outlines call off procedures, tardiness, and early outs, it’s simply asking for trouble. People like to know where the boundaries are.
While there will be some pushing of boundaries by some employees, as long as you have a clearly stated policy and enforce it evenly and consistently for everybody with no exceptions, your workforce will have more respect for your organization because they will know and understand the rules.
2. Everyone Needs to Sign Off on Your Time and Attendance Policy
Yet it’s not enough to simply have an absenteeism policy in place. It must be communicated to each worker and everyone must acknowledge in writing that they understand and agree to comply with the policy as a term of their employment.
Typically, this is done during the orientation process with new employees. But if you are implementing a new policy or making changes to your existing policy, it may be necessary to hold employee training sessions to review the rules.
Creating a signed acknowledgment of the policy will protect your organization when you need to enforce the policy. Employees won’t be able to content that they didn’t understand or know about the policy because you will be able to produce documentation that proves otherwise.
3. Everyone Has to Be Held to the Same Rules
Your managers and supervisors are just as human as your employees are. So at times they are going to want to look the other way, give people special dispensation, or simply disregard your absenteeism policy. This may be out of fear of confrontation, because they want to protect their favorite workers, or because they simply don’t want to enforce the policy because it creates too many administrative headaches.
4. Managers and Supervisors Can’t Play Favorites
In the long run, however, this is going to cause more problems than it solves. That’s because if even a single employee is not held to the same standard as everybody else, the value of your absenteeism is undermined. Other workers can legitimately claim that they can’t be held to the terms of your policy – if you have a signed acknowledgment that they understand it – because it isn’t being fairly applied to everybody.
It’s normal to want to give people a break once in a while. But “no exceptions” will help protect the integrity of your absenteeism management and your organization as a whole.
5. FMLA Is the Law of the Land
In the US, workers have federally protected rights that require most employers to protect their jobs and keep them from disciplinary action or termination under the conditions set forth by the Family and Medical Leave Act.
The law applies to any company with a minimum of 50 employees. In order to qualify for these protections, an individual employee must have worked at least 20 weeks in the current or prior calendar year. Plus, the employee must have been working for the employer for at least one year, although this does not have to be consecutive.
Under FMLA, employees can request unpaid time off to deal with a medical condition of their own, to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition, to serve in the military, or for the birth or placement (adoption) of a child.
6. Non-Sequential and Intermittent FMLA Are Real
Workers are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each 12-month period. This can be taken all at once or in blocks of time. During this time, the employer cannot terminate them or eliminate their position. The employee also is entitled to continuation of group health benefits during this period, although they may be required to pay their own insurance premium contributions while on FMLA leave.
For some conditions, when medically unfit, necessary FMLA leave can also be taken intermittently or the worker can request to be put on a reduced work schedule.
7. Local Laws May Apply to Your Business
The specific state, county or city in which your business operates may have its own employment rules that you need to understand and comply with. For example, many states and some cities require employers to provide sick leave to employees. In some instances, this must be paid leave, but other jurisdictions allow for unpaid leave for smaller businesses.
These types of laws are in effect in California, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, as well as New York City, Oakland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland and Eugene, Oregon.
8. You Can’t Claim You Weren’t Aware of Labor Laws
Ignorance of local laws regulating absenteeism rules is no excuse. If you aren’t sure what rules apply in the city and state where your business operates, check with your corporate counsel or attorneys before drawing up and enforcing your absenteeism policy.
9. Points Systems Often Offer a Better Option
Sometimes the best approach is to institute a points system for call offs, tardiness and early outs. This shifts some of the burden to the employees rather than to management.
For example, every employee may be allowed to accrue up to 10 or 12 points during a 12 month period before being terminated for excessive absenteeism. A call off could be worth 1 point, a late punch – defined as more than 7 minutes after their scheduled starting time – could be worth ½ a point, and an unapproved early out could also be worth ½ point.
10. Empower Employees to Manage Their Own Attendance
If a point system is used, each worker should be regularly notified of how many points they have on a quarterly basis or, at least, every six months. It’s also a good idea to notify workers in writing when they are approaching the maximum number of points.
Employee absenteeism is something that costs most companies a lot of money in lost business, lost productivity, and decreased employee morale. But by creating a fair and equitable absenteeism policy and enforcing it consistently, it’s possible to turn a negative into a positive.