Workplace Attendance and Absenteeism
There are a few different scenarios in which a business might be interested in making changes to their employee leave policy. These can include:
- The business is planning to start using a new leave management system or automated attendance management system, and they want to ensure firm guidelines are in place to maximize its use.
- A business is feeling the repercussions of excessive absenteeism in the workplace.
- A small business doesn’t have a formalized employee leave policy or in place, or it’s limited, and they want to expand on it.
Of course, there are other reasons, but these are some of the most common. There are some federal laws relevant to employee absences and time off as well, so a business might want to change their policies to improve compliance.
Some of these laws include the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act among others. There are also worker’s compensation laws to consider, relating to illnesses and injuries incurred while on the job. States also have their own specific laws related to family and medical leave.
While there may be laws protecting employees, businesses often struggle with employee abuse of attendance policies. The best way to eliminate abuse and to lower the costs related to excessive or chronic absenteeism is to have very clear, defined policies, and also to outline what disciplinary actions will be taken if these aren’t followed.
Absences at work are defined as missing time because of illness, childcare, personal obligation or injuries.
Absenteeism is different. This means a person is missing work without having a valid excuse, and this doesn’t include personal or sick days, vacation times or emergency situations. An example of absenteeism would be that the employee was too tired to come to work.
Absence and absenteeism are two terms that are distinct from one another. An occasional absence is perfectly normal, while absenteeism reflects a larger and more negative pattern of missing work.
What To Include In An Attendance Policy
Along with having a streamlined leave management system, a well-defined, written policy is one of the best ways to prevent the problems that can stem from absenteeism. Some tips for writing or changing an attendance policy include:
- Be specific. Don’t leave anything in a gray area. Define what you mean by attendance within your specific business. For example, is it related to the shifts worked, or the weekly number of hours worked?
- Include how you will track employee attendance. For example, include in your policy information about your attendance management system, and how employees can use it to request time off work.
- Create a highly detailed list of what will constitute an approved absence, and also what documentation you will ask your employees to show for each.
- Define the differences between an absence that’s been approved, one that’s not excused, and one that’s paid unpaid.
- Let employees know when disciplinary action is taken, and also what the steps in disciplinary action will be. If you ultimately have to fire an employee because of absenteeism, it’s important to follow a standard, consistent process to avoid future liability issues for wrongful termination.
- Include information about not just missing a full day or shift of work, but also how tardies are dealt with.
- The policy should highlight what constitutes paid time off and it should be broken down into what’s available for different types of employees. For example, do staff members who have been at the company for a year or more have paid time off, while newer employees don’t?
- Employees need to know not only how to request time off through a leave management system, but also how far in advance to do it. The policy should include details of when they’ll know if their request is approved or denied. Also important in a policy is detailing how decisions are made as to whether or not an employee’s request will be approved.
There are various ways that time off can be handled when it’s not requested in advance. For example, some businesses will do a zero-tolerance policy. This means an employee will either be terminated or will face immediate disciplinary action if they skip work with no valid reason. This is usually reserved primarily for employees who don’t just show up but also don’t call or offer any notice they won’t be coming in.
Some employers will say that any absence is okay if it’s covered by someone else. Other businesses will allow for unscheduled absences, but the employee is required to use their personal time off to cover it.
As far as tardies, this also has to be looked at in the framework of the individual business and its needs.
Some people will lose personal time off for the number of minutes they’re late, or employers will take money out of bonuses for each time an employee is late. Some employees may be required to make up the time they miss as a result of being late, while other employers are very lax about tardies as long as performance isn’t impacted.
Managing Employee Absences
Once a detailed written policy is established, a business needs to make sure they’re thoroughly training employees on this policy. Employees need not just to be trained during their onboarding, but throughout their time at a company. They also need to be trained on what the disciplinary standards are.
This can all be done in conjunction with an attendance management system. An attendance management system provides centralized visibility and insight into what’s really happening with employee absences and time off. The biggest problem for a lot of businesses is that they don’t know the trends as far as employee absences. A leave tracker system can automatically show there could be troubling patterns and red flags.
Other methods for managing employee absences can include using PTO banks, which empowers employees to make their own time-off decisions. This minimizes costs the business has to incur because of excessive absences but also gives employees freedom and autonomy.
For businesses that want to frame it in a more positive light, they may work on recognizing employees who have good attendance records, as opposed to only focus on negatively disciplining employees who don’t.