Managing Absenteeism

Do you track absenteeism in your organization?  Many small businesses don’t even think about absenteeism until it becomes a problem.

What is considered excessive?  1 day a month?  2 days a month?  10 days a year?  Not an easy question to answer.  Ideally, start by looking at absenteeism across the board for your organization – for everyone.  It’s as simple as creating an excel spreadsheet.  Come up with a system where you identify vacation time, bereavement, family sick etc – use a code to identify each ( eg. V-vacation). Then look at some stats – 6 months stats/12 month stats.  Does anyone stand out as being excessive compared to the rest of the organization?

Once you have the numbers – time to have the conversation.  It is really important to sit down and have an honest, non-threatening conversation with the employee.  Be transparent, show them the numbers (only discuss their situation; don’t compare to others).  It’s really important that you don’t just treat the symptoms, discover the cause.  Is there a current medical situation that would suggest a temporary accommodation may be required?  (Please ensure that you are not asking for a medical diagnosis or for any information of a private medical nature – you can only ask if there is a medical situation that requires accommodation and questions regarding the accomodation)  Is there a family situation that the employee is dealing with?  Is there one department or team that has significant absences when compared to other teams?  Is there low moral or engagement in their job or on their team?  Has this situation started as a result of the new leader that you promoted in that area – you may have a bigger concern than absenteeism.

Having a timely conversation with employees regarding absenteeism is important.  My experience has shown me that if you set clear expectations and have a flexible environment – you will have higher employee morale and engagement and are less likely to have absence abuse.  Create an environment where employees do not feel their job is threatened if they have a dentist appointment, need to pick up a sick child or elderly parent to care for.  Do you allow your employees to work flex hours or work from home?  Do you have “Personal Days” that your employees can utilize for family situations or days when they just really need a break from the office?

Keep in mind that Manitoba Employment Standards has “legislated leave” which must be granted to all eligible employees – ensure that you are honouring and tracking those leave situations.

If you have an employee who is abusing your leave policy and has excessive absenteeism – please speak with an HR professional before going down the progressive discipline route to ensure that you have done your Due Diligence as an employer.

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