How do you deal with the constant absenteeism of an employee? You know there’s a problem when there’s a regular offender that abuses the system. A quote I like by Archer Clair of Demand Media says, “At some point, everyone takes a sick day or a vacation day from work. Being absent usually stems from legitimate personal and medical issues. But when the absences become chronic, absenteeism can disrupt the workplace and put a big dent into productivity.” If an individual calls in sick once or twice it would be called normal, but once a pattern starts to show and a habit is formed then you know that there’s a serious issue.
An absentee employee might think that a manager might not notice, but they’re wrong; managers do notice, and they do it well. I have come across the absenteeism individuals many times. At first, you receive a text message or a call saying that the absentee is sick; you tend to think the best of them and wish that person good health and lots of rest.
However, as time goes by, a pattern is noticed. The sick leaves are more frequent as they tend to collide with a weekend (Sunday or Thursday). The excuses vary and become regular. The sick leave certificates are very generic, and the employee is absent at least twice a month.
There are employees that tend to take absenteeism for granted where they imply that they’re tired and need a day off work without keeping in mind that “absenteeism disrupts the flow of work and costs the company money when temporary workers are hired or overtime is paid to cover the absent worker’s duties. Legitimate causes for missing work, including sickness and injury, are unavoidable to some degree, but you may have employees who take advantage of leave time. If your company experiences high absenteeism from a few employees or on a larger scale, consider deeper issues causing the problem.”
So, allow me to ask you this question again. What would you do if you faced such an employee? When I first started working a few years ago, there was an employee that fell ill one day and came in the next day with a sick leave certificate for a heart condition. I accepted that, not thinking much of it. A month later, again the employee was absent, and then resumed the next day with a sick leave certificate for a skin condition. Every month onwards, I noticed the same trend but with a different condition/reason for the sick leave.
I am not in the habit of judging until I have all my facts, but my mind started spinning; either there’s foul play going on here, or the employee has very low immunity.
I called the employee in, had a fair discussion and he/she had sworn that they were sick, had health concerns, etc. However, nothing changed. The absenteeism continued, and even became more frequent. At times like these, you should go to a higher authority, which in my case was the Human Resources department.
To make sure I did everything I could, I simply asked the HR experts, ‘how would you deal with such an individual because I tend to see a pattern here?” And they asked me to do the following:
- Measure it – measure the absenteeism. Record the absences, and reasons to it.
- Offer flexibility – allowing employees more control over their schedules and the ability to select and swap shifts at short notice is guaranteed to reduce absenteeism.
- Prioritize – Make controlling absence a business priority. There’s no excuse not to keep on top of it. Business tools are available to control and monitor absence levels and trends in real-time – you can even set the parameters to alert you to all unscheduled absence the moment it happens.
- Stick to the organization’s policy – Rigidly enforce the absence policy. It needs to be monitored and enforced quickly, consistently, and fairly to curb unscheduled absence and unauthorized sick days – more than half of employed adults believe that their work performance is negatively impacted when attendance policies are not fairly enforced.
Absenteeism is a dilemma, and an unforeseen one. No matter how much a manager tries to be understanding, there will be still employees that will take advantage of it. If you see a pattern of absence from an employee, don’t ignore it. Take notice, and do something about it.
Have you noticed any sort of patterns at your workplace? Do share some insights with us. I would love to hear how it was handled.
Fatma (Fay), Emirati girl, with an experience in Corporate Communications and CSR. She is passionate about anything that is traditional and Emirati. In her free time she loves to watch Japanese anime, read manga, and play videogames. Spas are not the only thing that relaxes her, but cooking as well.
Fay’s columns observe work-life experiences and balance. A lot of her articles are based on first-hand personal experiences and issues she has seen or been part of. She loves to observe her surroundings, and watch how people handle different situations they’ve been put in.Also, she is trying to balance the art of staying positive at work and helping her peers understand that not everything should be a problem. With her writings she hopes to make a difference and make people more observant of the little problems in life, or work that hasn’t escalated to a catastrophe. It’s the little things that matters.