January 17, 2018

How to Reduce Absenteeism

This article in its entirety initially appeared in the January 2018 edition of the HR Advisor newsletter. We are sharing an edited version on the Workforce Go! website, with permission from the author.
Taking time away from work is good for employees’ physical and mental health—and morale. When able to rest while ill, recuperate after an injury, or tend to personal affairs, workers are better able to focus and effectively engage in responsibilities. Too many absences, however, can be costly for employers and frustrating for other employees who have to pick up the slack.
Know the difference between legitimate time off and absenteeism.
Absenteeism occurs when employees skip work for no good reason. While we cannot prevent the illnesses, injuries, or family emergencies that prevent employees from coming to work, employers can take steps to reduce absenteeism.
Adopt an attendance policy. A clearly-written attendance policy is an essential step to assure accountability! State attendance expectations and time-off request procedures. Specify consequences for employees who violate the policy.
Follow all applicable leave laws. Make sure you give employees the option to take all the time off to which they’re legally entitled. If your company is subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), for example, you may be required to provide job-protected leave of absence to an employee to care for themselves or a family member. Some states and municipalities have sick leave laws that guarantee employees a certain number of days off per year. You can certainly give employees more time off than what the law requires. Allowing for more expected absences may even reduce the number of unexpected ones. Ensure that you offer any leave time in a non-discriminatory manner, consistent with your policy.
Use discipline for policy violations. If an employee has been missing work without a legitimate reason and is in violation of your policy, you should discipline them. Depending on the severity of the absenteeism, consider starting with an oral or written warning. Escalate the punishment as necessary. After you have given the employee fair warning and they haven’t improved, reoccurring absenteeism could be grounds for termination.
Create a workplace environment and culture where people want to be! If absenteeism is widespread or incidents occur more frequently than you find acceptable, assess the management styles and employee interactions in your workplace. Are people generally happy? Do they get along? Are there any issues of concern, such as bullying? Do employees have opportunities to get to know one another and form collaborative and supportive relationships? Do they feel supported and valued by management? You can stop attendance problems before they start by building a workplace where people are inspired to work hard, do well, and celebrate success.
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