If not at least once, we all have been absent from work for one reason or another. Some are absent more than others, but when it takes place on a regular basis then absenteeism is a noticeable problem for that company. Absenteeism can defined as habitual absence from work, thought to reflect employee demoralization or dissatisfaction. Employee absenteeism is a problem for almost all employers, not to mention a costly one at that. The definition of absenteeism, its causes, its affects on productivity, and its costs in terms of finances and administrative effectiveness are quite clear, the challenge is in taking affirmative action to control it. People can be absent from work for a number or reasons, some of them for a very good reason, but whatever the reason, absence is costly and disruptive and needs to handled with skill, understanding and confidence.
What causes employees to skip work? Absenteeism is one of the most serious problem facing employers in today’s workplace. Employers must be able to identify what is causing their employees to miss work in order for them to find a solution. The reasons for the absences can be divided amongst two categories, internal (within the individual) and external (within the company). Internal causes can include serious accidents and illnesses, transportation problems, stress, low morale, poor physical fitness, inadequate nutrition, and personal problems. External causes range from poor working conditions, boredom on the job, low morale, lack of job satisfaction, guaranteed salary, and workload. As we can see causes of absenteeism fluctuate and whether they are legit or not, they very much carry on.
Absenteeism, no matter what the cause, imposes losses on the employer who is also not at fault. The damage suffered by the employer must be weighed. What are some of the costs of absenteeism? Three categories in for which the costs can be identified in are productivity, financial, and administrative. Decrease in productivity will unquestionably present itself. Employees will have to carry the extra workload or support new or replacement staff to cover down on the absentees. Then, employees will be required to train and orientate new or replacement workers. Staff morale will suffer since some employees will be working harder and maybe longer. Employee service will be affected as well, since they might not have the energy to take the workload of the missing employees. Financial costs will also be certainly existent. Payment of overtime may result for employees working double shifts. Cost of self-insured income protection plans must be borne, since it requires the employer to pay on absent days as well. Moreover, the wage costs of replacement employees. Lastly, premium costs may rise for insured plans. Finally, the administrative costs are last. Staff time is required to secure replacement employees or to re-assign the remaining employees. Staff time is required to maintain and control absenteeism, which is all will result in loss to the employer.
There is a point at which the employer’s right to expect the employee to attend regularly and fulfill the employment contract will outweigh the employee’s right to be sick. At such a point the termination of the employee may be justified. Therefore, good preventive procedures should be put in place to avoid such happenings to occur. It is very difficult to take affirmative action to control absenteeism in such a way as not to create mistrust, costly administration and systems avoidance. First and foremost, training for managing attendance must be administered. The human resource department must have the ability to supervise attendance. Managing attendance is far more than just controlling it. It will consist of being able to look at the problem of short term, intermittent and long term absences. As well as examining the detailed legal provisions for justifiable absences. In abstract, as an administrator, you can positively, proactively and consistently encourage this by communicating, keeping records to spot trends or trouble spots, and/or even promote health and wellness training with your staff. Absence control procedures are necessary, but motivating people to attend work is also extremely important. If absenteeism is to be controlled, the physical and emotional needs of employees must be addressed.
One method of controlling absenteeism is positive discipline. Practicing positive discipline puts the responsibility where it belongs – on the employee. A manager can’t control an employee’s behavior; he or she can only influence it. Employee discipline is critical in achieving organizational success. Some approaches to workplace discipline can be positive and constructive, including communication, training, and motivation. Positive discipline is corrective, not punitive. The manager is no longer the bad guy. Employees are treated as adults-responsible for their own behavior.
Counseling is one form of communicating the problem to the employee. Supposing you have already communicated the attendance policies to the employee, you then identified the employee as a problem. You should meet with him or her as part of your attendance program procedure and should conduct your initial counseling. Now, you should now continue to monitor the effect of these efforts on his or her attendance. If the absences are intermittent, meet with the employee each time he/she returns to work. If absence is prolonged, keep in touch with the employee regularly and stay updated on the status of his/her condition. Indicate your willingness to assist. You may require the employee to provide you with regular medical assessments. This will facilitate judging whether or not there is any likelihood of the employee providing regular attendance in future. Regular medical evaluation will also give you an idea of what steps the employee is taking to seek medical or other assistance. Formal meetings in which verbal warnings are given should be given as appropriate and documented. If no improvement occurs written warning may be necessary. A written counseling requires that you meet with the employee formally and provide him/her with a letter of concern. If the absenteeism still continues to persist then the employee can be given a second letter of concern during another formal meeting, depending on the procedure of the company. This letter would be stronger worded in that it would warn the employee that unless attendance improves, termination may be necessary. Counseling again is based on procedural guidance of the company the employee is working for.
Another controlling method is involved with the role of managers and supervisors. Management style can be largely a cause of absenteeism. One reason, outside of illness or accidents, that employees are absent can be stress. Usually, one reason employees are stressed is their relationship with their manager or supervisor at their work. Management styles that are too controlling tend to promote high levels of absenteeism among employees. Dictatorial managers are managers who have poor listening skills, set unreachable goals, have poor communication skills, and are inflexible. In other words, they yell too much, blame others for problems, and make others feel that it must be their way or the “highway.” Authoritarian managers can have the tendency to produce high absenteeism rates. By identifying managers who use an authoritarian style, and providing them with management training, you could be taking a positive step not only toward reducing absenteeism, but also reducing turnover, job burnout, and employee health problems such as backaches and headaches.
You may also look at changing working conditions, if the problem persists. Employees in a company work better when surrounded by good working conditions. Working conditions are not only limited to the physical aspects of the company’s area but to the relationships of the co-workers as well. Not only can relationship stress occur between the employee and manager, but it can also exist between employees. For example, I have heard employees say they did not go to work because they are fearful of or angry with another employee. These employees usually report they just could not deal with “so and so” today, so they called in ill. Companies that adopted policies and values that promote employee respect and professionalism, promote an internal conflict resolution procedure, are companies that reduce employee stress. A reduction in employee stress reduces employee absenteeism.
Next, developing an attendance policy will give you results in controlling absenteeism. Every company should have an attendance policy. An attendance policy allows a manager to intervene with an employee who is frequently absent and try to correct the problem. Besides stress as a primary reason for employee absenteeism, other causes can relate to personal problems such as alcoholism, domestic violence, and family problems. If you confront an employee about his or her frequent absenteeism, and they inform you it is due to personal problems, consider referring the employee for professional help. If the employee’s absenteeism relates to a medical problem or a family member with a medical problem, you may have to consider allowing the employee to use the benefits allowed to them under some of the legal provision out there, such as American’s with Disability Act (ADA) or the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Early identification of these employees will get them back to work as fast as possible. Lastly, make sure that you have an attorney review your attendance policy to make sure it does not violate any State or Federal labor laws. By incorporating the above strategies into your company you will not only reduce absenteeism you will reduce employee burnout, turnover, poor morale, and workplace negativism as well.
Lastly, maintain your employees healthy, as stated previously, is important for improving attendance. Wellness programs and safety awareness programs are largely popular for promoting good health in your employees. The healthier your employees are the less they will become ill and call in sick. Attendance incentives is also substantially imperative for its existence in promoting 100% participation. Giving employees incentives for reduced absenteeism is not the same as rewarding or giving employees bonuses for reduced absenteeism. An incentive provides an employee with a boost to their motivation to avoid unnecessary absenteeism. It simply helps the employee decide to go to work versus staying home and watching Jerry Springer, for example. The types of incentive programs used by companies are numerous. Some companies allow employees to cash-in unused sick days at the end of every quarter, others give an employee two hours of bonus pay for every month of perfect attendance; and still others provide employees with a buffet lunch, a certificate of achievement, or even a scratch-off card concealing prizes. The type of incentive program that your company uses should be one created especially for your company. For example, the in the military, even though it is slightly different, it is still the same. Our absenteeism problem involves soldiers consistently going to sick call (doctor’s visit) and receiving quarters (mandatory time off, usually 24-48 hours) for reasons not legit (as diarrhea or migraine, which can be hard to prove). As a supervisor, I try to motivate my soldiers to stay healthy and look presentable by giving them some time off when they have exceeded the standards. You must create an incentive program tailored to your unique company by allowing employees to help you develop the incentive program. For example, your employees may not care about receiving a $25.00 U.S. saving bond for perfect attendance, but they might respond very well to being able to leave one hour early on Friday if they have perfect attendance all week. The duration of the incentive program is also very important. Once again allow your employees to help guide you to determine the length of time between incentives. Some companies find that they can simply reward employees with perfect attendance once a year, while others decide once a month is best, and still others decide once a week works best. Also, it is best to start with small incentives and work up to larger ones if necessary.
In conclusion, attendance improvement programs can work! What the employees require is commitment and support from all levels of management, an effective attendance record-keeping system, consultation and open communication on the reasons for the attendance program. Implementing and maintaining a work environment where open communication and team spirit can thrive. If you need encouragement just consider some of the benefits; reduced absenteeism, open communication, team spirit, reduced grievances and greater employee satisfaction. Only when the positive approach is unsuccessful does the employer need to use the remedial approach to deal with habitual abusers or with excessive absentee cases. In all cases the employer’s actions must be fair and reasonable and consistently applied. With a well communicated, implemented, and administered program, the majority of the employees should agree with the attendance management program and cooperation should follow.
What Do We Know About Employee Absence Behavior? An Interdisciplinary Interpretation: Kaiser, Carl P., Journal of Socio-Economics, 1998, Vol. 27 Issue 1, p80, 18p.
Absenteeism: Johns, Gary, Peters, Lawrence H., Greers, Charles R., Youngblood, Stuart A., Cooper, Cary L., Argyris, Chris. Blackwell Encyclopedic Dictionary of Human Resource Management, 1997, p1, 4p.
Influence Of Cumulation Strategies On The Long-Range Prediction Of Absenteeism: Steel, Robert P., Rentsch, Joan R., Academy of Management Journal, 00014273, Dec95, Vol. 38, Issue 6.
Turnover, Transfer, Absenteeism: An Interdependent Perspective: Dalton, Dan R.; Todor, William D., Journal of Management, Summer93, Vol. 19 Issue 2, p193.
Job Performance and Absenteeism: Bycio, Peter., Human Relations, Feb92, Vol. 45 Issue 2, p193.
It’s The Work That Keeps People At Work: Wilkinson, Roderick. Management Services, Feb90, Vol. 34 Issue 2, p34, 2p
Absenteeism: New Approaches to Understanding, Measuring, and Managing Employee Absence: Hanlon, Martin D., Work ; Occupations, May87, Vol. 14 Issue 2, p306, 3p.
Job Satisfaction and Absenteeism: Martin, Jack K.; Miller, George A., Work ; Occupations, Feb86, Vol. 13 Issue 1, p33, 14p.