I remember when I was back in the University I could choose to go to a class or not depending on my mood and other factors. In the workplace, things are quite different. The day your employee agreed to an employment contract you both entered into an employment bargain- that the employer will pay the employee some form of compensation in exchange for his/her time, effort and work with certain limitations.
With this in mind, I can imagine how management feels when there is an employee with a good attendance record, but along the line you begin to notice a decline. How will you handle the situation? Let’s make a twist, what if the employee in question never really had a good record in the first place?
When an employee begins to show continuous or excessive absenteeism it affects productivity, the value of customer service, profit, creativity and ultimately, the culture of your workplace.
Simply put, this is bad for your business and we all know that. Let’s not forget that the morale of other employees will be negatively affected. You know how things can be in the workplace, other workers are watching and trying to see your reactions. How will you remedy it? Will they follow that path too? How do you escape legal actions in future if the employee decides to bring one?
To handle absenteeism issues, you need to be careful and apply tactics. You don’t want to make a mistake and suffer a huge loss eventually. Before I proceed, it will be important for you to note that there are two ways to look at absenteeism. The first is where the employee is absent for reasons beyond control. For example, loss of a family member, medical or health reasons, and so on. The second is where the employee intentionally decides to skip work for lack of good faith.
Furthermore, depending on the extent or level of absence, you may want to follow progressive discipline to resolve these attendance issues.
Here are ways to go about resolving an employee’s absenteeism or attendance issues.
- Remind the employee of the company’s expectations and policy
This is the first step to take.Call in your employee for a brief informal meeting and discuss with the individual on expected attendance compliance. Remind the individual of the company’s policy. If your company doesn’t have one it is advised that you make one as soon as possible and properly distribute it to your workers.
Take a step further by giving orientation and or training to all employees on the policy. The policy should also adhere to the employment legislations of your country/ state. Audit your policies and procedures periodically. Please note that this meeting should be very informal, provide the employee with a relaxed atmosphere and try to discuss with him/her on possible ways to resolve the issue.
- Accommodate the Employee
Depending on how the first meeting goes, if there is the need to accommodate the employee please try to do so. So if he/she has been absent from work for religious or family issues try to see if there are ways that your organization can help and accommodate.
If the poor attendance is for medical challenges then ensure that you receive medical verification of illness. If it is a disability issue, then work with the employee on how to accommodate him/ her. Disability related absences cannot be accommodated only where it will cause undue hardship to the employer.
- Check out for patterns
Look into the absenteeism records and search for any recurring pattern. For example, does the employee not show up to work every two weeks or maybe every last day of the month? Ensure that you take good records of such patterns noticed for future references.
Remember that every individual’s case may be different from another. It is important that you treat each individual’s need specifically to the facts you gather.
After this, you will have to review the employee’s past attendance record to note when the absenteeism started and how his/her previous record of attendance was. This may give you some insight to the motive behind his/her absence. If the past history shows that the employee has always been present and punctual, then this may be an indication that the employee is no longer happy at the job or that there are indeed substantial reasons for concern. Based on this findings, you can know your next line of actions.
Try to have another informal meeting with the employee. Listen to what excuse he/she has. See if there are ways you can accommodate or assist the employee. Look into whether a period of leave should be given to the employee to help him/her resolve the issues at hand. Your employee will be better off in good shape.
- Formal Meeting/ Written Warning
If the situation persists then you may have to call in the employee for a formal meeting. Please note that where your organization is one that has a union then it is advised that you also have a union representative present at such meeting. However, for the purpose of this article, I will assume that there is no union.
In this case, please invite the employee for a formal meeting, discuss with the employee on the importance of good attendance and issue him/ her with a written warning. You want to ensure that you keep good records/ documentations of your actions. Everything you do from this stage henceforth should be documented. Also, ensure that you document all previous steps you took to help resolve the attendance issues.
If the situation gets out of hand and you have exhausted all necessary options then you may have to consider termination of the employment. Please note that this decision should be considered carefully and depending on the extent of absence to avoid liability for wrongful dismissal and or discrimination claim.
Managing absenteeism of an employee requires patience, hard work and careful consideration of circumstances of the individual and legal framework to avoid legal risks. Also, effectively managing attendance issues of an employee may help the individual’s life in the long run. Imagine proffering solutions to an employee who is undergoing personal crisis, he/she will remain grateful. You would have helped a life, but not that alone, you will improve the productivity and growth of your organization.
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