Can You Terminate an Employee for Excessive Absenteeism?

Can You Terminate an Employee for Excessive Absenteeism

If there is something that the past two years have taught us is that we can’t always foresee what life will throw at us. And, no matter how careful and prepared you are, occasional illnesses and family emergencies happen, and can cause you to miss one or more days of work.

But there is a drastic difference between an occasional unforeseen that prevents you from clocking in and regular, unjustified absences. In the US, the habitual non-presence of employees has been on the rise over the past years, reaching an average of absent employees of 3.2%.

And, when your employees don’t show up for their shift, your company can suffer severe consequences, including a drop in employee morale, financial damages, and operational inefficiency. So, what can you do about it? Is it possible to terminate an employee for excessive absenteeism, the answer is yes – but it’s not the only solution. Learn more below!

What Is Absenteeism?

Before diving into whether it is fair for employers to terminate an employee for excessive absences, let’s look at what absenteeism is.

Generally, your employees can be absent for a range of reasons, including vacations, holidays, family emergencies, or occasional sicknesses. However, if you have noticed your employees being consistently absent from work for unacceptable reasons or extended periods, you might be dealing with absenteeism.

It is important to notice that there are no federal laws that determine what constitutes “excessive” absenteeism – or how many days off are too many days off. Setting these standards and guidelines comes down to the employer, who should offer guidelines in the official employee handbook and attendance policy.

The Impact of Excessive Employee Absences

The consequences of excessive employee absences or low employee attendance rates in your company can be catastrophic. These include:

  • Financial losses deriving from having to pay the absent employee’s wage
  • Financial losses from having to find a replacement – often with costlier agency workers
  • Increased administrative costs of dealing with absenteeism
  • Reduced operational efficiency and lower quality of products and services
  • Reduced morale across the team, especially if other team members have to pick up the slack

Reasons for Excessive Absences

Episodes of absenteeism – or unscheduled absence – and are often intentional and can stem from a range of causes, including:

  • A serious health condition or chronic illness
  • Family-related or child-care issues
  • Job hunting and attending interviews (even more common during the Great Resignation)
  • Workplace harassment and bullying
  • Heavy workloads and burnout
  • Low morale or disengagement
  • Seasonal illnesses

Can I Be Fired for Excessive Absenteeism?

If you are wondering whether you can be fired for excessive absenteeism, the answer is yes – it is legal for your employer to fire you for a low attendance rate or unsatisfactory performance.

However, a lot depends on:

  • Your attendance rate – your company can go ahead with employee termination as a consequence of performance issues and low attendance rates. To understand whether your absenteeism is “excessive” you should review the company policy.
  • The reason for your absences – your company cannot fire you for occasional absences due to illnesses, injuries, and emergencies. However, if you are regularly absent, you will need to have a doctor’s note specifying the reasons for your sick leave.

It is also important to notice that an employer cannot proceed with employee termination without undergoing other steps. The company’s human resources department might issue several disciplinary actions – like demotion or reduced pay – as well as a final warning before terminating your employment.


Can I Terminate an Employee for Absenteeism?

If you are dealing with an employee who is frequently absent or late, you might be wondering whether you can terminate their employment. The short answer is yes, you can. But there are multiple steps you need to take to avoid wrongful termination and the legal consequences of it.

Firstly, it is essential to introduce an objective absence and time tracker. The right software or app can help you build your case and provide a wealth of evidence to the employee in question – as well as their lawyers.

Additionally, you will need to keep in mind vital federal laws like the Family Medical Leave Act and the American Disabilities Act. If your employees have taken FMLA leave or are absent because of a disability, attempting to terminate their employment might lead to a discrimination claim against your company.

If you are dealing with an employee who is excessively absent or can no longer perform essential functions within the company, you should partner with an experienced law firm or legal counsel to navigate your case.

Can I Terminate an Employee for Excessive Absenteeism?

Excessive absenteeism can have severe consequences on your company’s well-being and operational stability. However, if you are wondering whether you can terminate an employee for excessive absenteeism, you should keep in mind that both employers and employees have rights.

That is why if you have a robust attendance policy in place and can demonstrate that those excessive absences were not due to Family Medical Leave Act or American Disabilities Act leaves, you might proceed to take disciplinary actions.

Tackling Excessive Absenteeism and Boosting Employee Attendance

Employee termination should always be the last resort for employers dealing with excessive absences. Before settling for this solution, managers should work with the human resources department to outline a strategy to help a concerned employee and boost the overall team morale. Here are some of the steps you should not fail to take:

  • Introduce a robust employee attendance policy both you and your employees can refer to
  • Create the right workplace culture that makes it easier for concerned, bullied, harassed, or unhappy employees to open up with their employers
  • Boost on-the-job engagement, which can reduce your absenteeism rates by 41%
  • Work with your human resources team to introduce an absence management system, which should include more one-to-one time with each employee, reduced managerial input, and immediate attention to the next instance of absenteeism
  • Invest in a software that tracks and monitors absence rates
  • Help your employees find work-life balance by introducing hybrid work models, which can also reduce absences related to childcare and eldercare.
  • Invest in mental and physical wellness programs
  • Provide professional and personal development opportunities for your employees

Bottom Line: Can You Terminate an Employee for Excessive Absenteeism?

Terminating an employee for excessive absences is certainly an option for most employees – but it should not be their first port of call. Instead, high rates of absenteeism are a telltale sign that your employees are unable to keep up with the workload, feel unsafe at work, or suffer from chronic conditions.

Introducing the right absence management strategies can help you reduce absence rates while creating a better workplace for all.

Unsure how? At Buddy Punch, we can help you find the best time and attendance tracking solution for your needs, highlight underlying issues, and build a more engaged workforce.

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