Key Disciplines to Absenteeism at Work


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. The task of correcting repeated absences then falls upon management. In most cases, company policies on missing work can be found in the employee handbook. While all employees usually have access to this information, it's prudent to deal with absenteeism by the book and first remind employees they are in violation of company policy.


Definition of absenteeism is "...missing part or whole days of work due to personal illness, personal business, or other reasons. May be avoidable and unavoidable." In other words, absenteeism happens when an employee repeatedly calls in to work or leaves early. The employee may follow guidelines in terms of notifying managers and staff, but continues to frequently miss work.


The majority of employees who don't come to work have legitimate reasons and are up front about the cause. Absenteeism may be due to a chronic medical condition. Sometimes employees are experiencing an ongoing traumatic situation at home, like a divorce or an ill child. But employees who routinely abuse the system to simply not come to work create a burden for co-workers and disrupt workflow.


Absenteeism negatively affects office productivity and morale. Colleagues have to pick up the slack when a co-worker is absent from the office. Follow the discipline guidelines for absences consistently and fairly among all employees. The typical timeline for absences calls for a verbal warning, written warning, suspension and may even result in termination. It's important to directly address and enforce rules as soon as possible. Being proactive shows employees that management notices absences will enforce guidelines. Keep the dialogue open and cordial with the employee. Often, simply holding people accountable for their actions can curb employees who have a bad habit of calling in to work. If the behavior continues, take formal steps in writing and remind the employee his job may be on the line.


For employees who are absent due to chronic illness or an ongoing medical problem, consider checking with your human resources department about the Family Medical Leave Act. Under certain criteria, employees who are chronically ill or must care for a chronically ill child can be exempt from a company's attendance policy with completed forms from a physician. If the employee's absenteeism is due to a prior obligation or time conflict, consider allowing flex time in the office, provided all work is completed on time.

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