5 Steps to Effectively Handle Excessive Absenteeism in the Workplace

By Mariah Collins, SHRM-CP on Nov 04, 2021
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Workplace absences can happen for a variety of reasons. Employees may have healthcare issues, family problems or underlying causes leading to their absence. Excessive absenteeism is something that business owners need to address; the key is to approach the situation tactfully as you engage the employee and try to work on a solution together. Listening and communicating are essential when it comes to navigating the circumstances surrounding employee absenteeism.

Related: Ghosting - Issuing Final Paychecks When an Employee Disappears >>

Absenteeism in the Workplace: A Few Eye-Opening Realities

Different from allowed time off, absenteeism is the consistent absence of an employee from their work obligations. While the employee may have a reason for not showing up to work, it is not necessarily an excusable reason depending on the business owner’s point of view and company policies. Excessive absenteeism can pose a number of highly problematic issues; among such are:

  • The financial burden this puts on the employer
  • The undermined trust that arises between managers and employees
  • The hit that morale may inevitably take
  • The possible damage this can do to your company’s reputation
  • The safety concerns that can come up when another employee is filling in on a job that may be unfamiliar to them

This list is by no means extensive. Past and present studies done by the Society of Human Resource Management suggest that habitual employee absences can lead to a productivity dip by as much as 36%. And this doesn’t even begin to touch on the issue of how one person “getting away with it” can lead to others on your team adopting an “I-don’t-care” approach and following suit.

sick days when employees lie

How Can You Prevent Excessive Absences?

Do you have to completely change your leadership style? Is it a matter of instituting a penalty system? What can be done to stop employees from taking time off without a good reason for doing so? While these questions may be tricky to navigate depending on the situation, they are ones that ideally should be addressed. This is where clear communication, well-defined protocol and potentially serious consequences can have a measurable impact on stemming excessive absenteeism.

1. Have a clearly defined policy in place.

If employees don’t know the rules then, unfortunately in many people’s minds, this means they’re not breaking them. Do your employees know precisely where you stand on matters of excessive absence? If not, then now is the time to put it in writing. Generally, a good place to have such a policy outlined is in the employee handbook. You will want to spell out what constitutes an excusable absence and what does not. Furthermore, make sure you are clear on the actions that will be taken if an employee is regularly absent without reason. It is recommended that you don’t simply bury it in the employee handbook; rather, you should be deliberate in pointing this language out to all employees once you decide on the best course of action for your organization when it comes to absences.

2. Create your case.

It is important to keep in mind that you don’t want to make assumptions right off the bat with an excessively absent employee, but you do want to have all relevant information documented. Note the days of their absences and keep a log. Also, keep on file any communications you might have regarding the absences in question. Once you are confident that you’ve got all your information squared away, then you can approach the employee and discuss the situation.

3. Have a meaningful conversation with the employee.

Excessive absenteeism is likely not an issue in the employee’s mind until you explain that it is a problem. In approaching an employee about their absences, it is best to do so with concern and in a private setting. Something could legitimately be wrong at home or in their personal life that is affecting their ability to be at work. Open the door to a conversation in such a way that they feel comfortable talking to you about a potential situation. Ideally, first, give them a chance to explain their excessive absences in a non-confrontational setting.

4. Accommodate the employee if applicable.

If there is an underlying problem leading to their absences, then accommodating the employee might be the optimal solution. For example, it could be that there is a childcare-related problem. Would it be possible to give this employee a schedule that enables them to work from home part of the time? You could offer to explore these kinds of solutions. That said, there may be certain circumstances such as chronic health issues, for instance, that require more than minor accommodations arrived at in the context of an employer/employee discussion. Some situations might necessitate the help of an HR expert (like a dedicated Axcet HR Solutions Consultant!) familiar with the laws and regulations surrounding health issues and requisite accommodations. If you are faced with this type of situation, Axcet HR Solutions can help you navigate what may otherwise be unfamiliar territory.

5. Take serious action when required.

If it is not health issues or family predicaments, then it might just be a question of the employee’s irresponsibility. Maybe they simply “don’t feel like showing up.” At this point, it will certainly help to get an HR professional involved. It will be important to determine the appropriate course of action. Is there some form of counseling that may be effective? Could it simply be a matter of explaining to the employee their absences have now put them on probation? Or, as a last resort, is it time to terminate the employee? A dedicated HR professional can help guide you through these issues.

Related: No Call, No Show Employees: What to Do When They Reappear >>

Absenteeism in the workplace is an issue with serious implications if not addressed properly. If you need assistance navigating what to do in this type of situation, the HR Consultants at Axcet are here to help! Call today to set up a time to chat and see if we can meet your Human Resources needs.

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