Every employee, no matter how conscientious, misses a day of work once in a while. We are all susceptible to illness and injury. Sometimes other things, such as family emergencies, a sick child, or jury duty, may necessitate a day off from work. Most companies allow for such absences. However, when employees abuse these rights, absenteeism can turn into a real problem for employers.
Understanding Employee Absenteeism?
The first thing you need to know if you want to understand employee absenteeism is what it is. Any employee can miss a day of work. Occasional illnesses or absences are to be expected, and certainly do not fall under the heading of a chronic problem. In order for an employee’s absences to qualify as absenteeism, they must meet one or more of the following criteria:
- The absences are unexplained or unapproved. An employee who fails to show up for work without calling to let you know he’ll be out – especially without a reasonable explanation, such as a very serious illness or injury that prevented a phone call – represents a problem. Anyone can get sick, but it is reasonable to expect employees to call and tell you that they’ll be missing work.
- The absences happen frequently and appear to be unwarranted. Some employees make a point of calling in sick once or twice a month whether they are actually sick or not. If you have an employee who calls infrequently, it may be a sign that he is abusing your policy.
- The employee’s absences tend to happen on Mondays or Fridays. Some employees use paid sick leave as a way to get a long weekend. A worker who often takes unexpected days off at the beginning and end of the week may be taking advantage of you.
- An employee seems dissatisfied or listless on the job. A lot of times, disgruntled employees take time off because they are unhappy with their jobs. If you notice a slip in job performance combined with increased absences, that’s a sign that a chronic problem is developing.
In other words, an occasionally explained absence from an otherwise good employee need not alarm you. Repeated and unexplained absences, on the other hand, require attention.
The Costs of Absenteeism
It is important to understand what absenteeism costs you in real terms. Missed work days can affect a company in a number of ways. For example:
- Lost work and wages. A 2013 article in Forbes estimated that employee absenteeism costs U.S. employers $3,600 annually for each hourly employee and $2,650 annually for salaried employees. The money comes from wages paid for no work, as well as additional wages for temporary employees or overtime.
- There are administrative costs associated with managing employee absenteeism, and over the course of a year, they can add up.
- Lost productivity. When employees are disgruntled and missing work, your overall productivity can take a hit. If left unaddressed, reduced productivity can cut into your profits.
- Quality control. When employees miss work and others have to pick up the slack, it is inevitable that the people who are putting in extra work will end up making mistakes.
- Safety issues. If you have to bring in temp workers or ask others to fill in for an absent employee, their lack of training and experience can lead to an increase in workplace accidents and injuries. That can cost you additional lost work as well as impact things like workers’ compensation policies.
- Employee morale. One slacking employee can bring down a whole department – or a whole company. When employees feel that one person is getting away with excessive absenteeism, it can have a negative impact on everything else in the workplace.
The bottom line is that absenteeism is more than just a minor irritation. It’s something that, if left unchecked, can hurt your company in many ways.
How to Curb Absenteeism
Now that you understand what employee absenteeism is and how it can affect your company, it’s time to talk about what you can do to address it. It’s essential not to ignore absenteeism in the hopes that things will get better. They won’t – and you may end up with an avalanche of new problems if you let it slide. Here are some of the things you can do:
- Have a clear, written policy about time off and make sure all employees sign something to indicate that they understand it. In this litigious age, it is not enough to express your policy verbally or to send out an email. You need to document that each employee has read and understood the policy so you can take disciplinary action down the line if you need to.
- Consider having a set number of sick days for non-exempt employees. Some employers worry that allowing a fixed number of sick days will only ensure that employees will use them, but there are ways around that. For example, you might offer an incentive of some kind to employees who do not call in sick. It is important, though, to consider the costs associated with encouraging people to come in when they are One employee with the flu can end up infecting an entire department or company, so keep that in mind.
- Nip abuse in the bud by sitting down with employees who appear to be calling in sick on a regular basis. It’s essential to understand what’s happening when you notice that an employee is using a lot of sick time. It’s possible they have a chronic health problem or family issue, and it is better for you to know that – and work with them to manage their time off – than to continue on in ignorance and hope that things change.
- Whatever policy you put in place, be sure to enforce it equally for all employees. Remember, the goal is to avoid malaise and discontentment. If one employee gets away with excessive absenteeism it can affect everybody’s morale.
- Be cautious docking pay for exempt (salaried) employees. You may be within your rights to dock pay in some circumstances, but exempt employees do not get paid for overtime. If you dock an exempt employee who also tends to work on nights and weekends, you could end up on the hook for time-and-a-half or even double pay if you’re not careful. Make sure you understand the potential costs of docking an employee’s pay and do it only when necessary.
Employee absenteeism can be a problem, but the key to managing it is to put a firm policy in place, make sure that all employees understand it, and do what you can to nip absenteeism in the bud before it affects your bottom line. All of the above can be monitored and actioned upon using absence management software. Keeping track of your workforce in today’s business environment is an essential ingredient for the success of any organization. Employee Absenteeism is a problem in all organizations throughout the United States and must be managed and recorded in a way that suits both employees and employers.