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Methods to Deal With Chronic Absenteeism in The Workplace

Determining what does and does not constitute chronic absenteeism in your workplace is a key element in protecting and getting the most out of your investment in human capital. However, even the best performing investments need management and the occasional ‘tweaking’ here and there.

When it comes to absenteeism this may be down to lax rules, poor communication, soft management or simply, and perhaps most worryingly, a culture of unaccountability. To best discern what the case may be, one must always begin with measurement. This gives you valuable data and establishes a baseline for you to measure the efficacy against which your new protocols may be tested.

Time and attendance is much more than simply capturing employee attendance and providing a layer of security. The true value lies in the data and segmentation thereof. Your data not only tells you when and how often individual employees were absent but also, for example, who was the duty manager that day which allows you to investigate whether employees have a higher likelihood of being absent on days when that manager is on duty, enabling you to address possible soft management skills or a lack of rule enforcement.

Another example would be to discern the coincidence of absenteeism with Monday’s to effectively determine likelihood of actual sick days versus employee delinquency allowing you to demand doctors notes from chronically absent employees. You could also conduct interviews with the employee upon their return to work to establish their reasons for being away.

If your workforce is shift-based then it may benefit your company to increase its flexibility giving your employees the opportunity to responsibly amend their shifts and ensure that a full complement of staff is on hand. This ability to exchange shifts enables your staff to cope with unforeseen, necessary time off and also for the company to limit productivity slumps because of absent staff.

Realism is key in developing your absence control policies. Absenteeism is unavoidable in businesses of any size and it benefits the company to include a maximum amount of days off to allow employees to deal with unforeseen emergencies without fear of penalties and protects the business against abuse of the system through clear communication of the penalties incurred if the system is indeed abused.

The most important method to control absenteeism is consistency, of course there will always be edge-cases and times when it will be necessary to grant compassionate leave but in all other occurrences the rules must be followed and penalties meted out to the letter. This will, immediately and effectively, grant and establish the authority of your management and the expectations the company has of its employees and what the results of not living up to those expectations will be.

This being said, it is always beneficial to have a high level of employee satisfaction and the inclusion of incentives for perfect attendance records rewards and positively reinforces employees for their effort as well as tempers the strict enforcement penalties upon employees that abuse the system.