6 Steps for Dealing with Employee Absenteeism

Employee Absenteeism

CareerBuilder’s 2017 annual survey reported that employee absenteeism has been increasing. Nearly 40% of workers surveyed admitted that they had called in sick when they actually were not. That percentage is up 5% from those surveyed in 2016. Reportedly, employee absenteeism cost U.S. employers over $225 billion in 2015 alone.

So why is it so important to address absenteeism?  

It is imperative to address excessive employee absenteeism or tardiness quickly and consistently to ensure the stability of your business. In addition to the monetary aspect, it can also be very harmful to your business because other employees cannot ignore it, it directly affects your business reputation, and affects employee morale.

However, you must still be sensitive to legitimate issues that may be the cause. Emergencies happen, and unexpected circumstances arise. For example, some understandable reasons to be tardy or absent are maternity leave, loss of loved one, medical appointments, court appearances or jury duty, issues related to a disability, illness,  voting, religious holidays, and pre-approved absences.

The 6-Step Foolproof Process

In order to get a grasp on the issue of absenteeism, you need to clearly define what it is for your employees, the potential repercussions for continual absenteeism, and what they could gain by getting to work on time consistently. Below are six steps to help you as you tackle the challenge of employee absenteeism.

1. Create a policy

Whether you have one employee or 100, you need to have an official, written employee attendance policy in place to inform the employees of what is expected of them. Create a policy that is fair to both you and the employees.  Be considerate of unexpected illness or events and set up disciplinary actions.

Once your policy is written down, be sure each employee reads it thoroughly.  It is best to have employees sign a waiver verifying that they are aware of the policies and that they will be held responsible for their attendance.

2. Determine the cause

As discussed earlier, there are obviously some valid reasons for absences.  However, a habit of absenteeism is something that needs to be addressed. Use your attendance records as evidence to show the employee his absentee habits.  Yes, disciplinary action should be made, but you need to discover the underlying reason why chronic tardiness is a problem for your employee. Perhaps they are taking night classes or are having issues with daycare.  If a shift change can be made to address their needs, you may end up solving their tardiness issues altogether. However, if there is no valid reasoning behind the employee’s chronic absenteeism, inform them of the disciplinary actions in place.

3. Do not delay

Address absences immediately with the employee.  Do not let too much time lapse before addressing unscheduled absences or “no-shows.”  Inform them of what happened, what the guidelines are, and what disciplinary action they are or may receive in the future.  The employee needs to know that you notice absenteeism and that it is taken seriously.

4. Consistently enforce your policy

Your employee attendance policy must be consistently enforced in order for it to actually make a difference.  A pattern of absenteeism must be addressed. Try to build certain acceptable scenarios into your policy and have some sort of system to escalate unscheduled absences or tardiness.  

Another thing to keep in mind is that an unscheduled absence is much different than a “no show.”  Even if the employee switches with a co-worker or calls in sick, you at least have a little bit of time to find a replacement or prepare for the day appropriately.  A “no-show” can leave management wondering what is going on and cause the whole team to be unprepared for the day. Create a policy for both the unscheduled absenteeism and a “no show.”

5. Keep records

Find a simple, yet effective way to record employee absences.  Whatever the system you choose, be sure that it is accurate and used consistently.  Keep track of every absence or late clock in – both scheduled and unscheduled. This will help you keep an eye on employee absenteeism and provide a layer of protection in the event the employee must be terminated.  Having a well-documented paper trail on hand helps protect you from wrongful termination suits and other compliance-related suits.

6. Positive reinforcement

Obviously, you want to keep track of those employees who have an issue with unscheduled absences and chronic tardiness.  However, do not forget to keep track of those employees who do not have an issue.  Remember to reward good behavior, as well as the bad.  Rewarding employees for good attendance or performance does not have to be costly, but employees who feel appreciated or rewarded for good behavior are much more likely to stay in your employ and to have a good attitude.  Simple rewards like an extra day off, early clock out, or choosing their own schedule for a period are simple ideas. High employee morale is vital to an effective workforce.