People Management
5 min.

6 Ways to Defeat Absenteeism in the Workplace

Andrée-Anne Blais-Auclair
February 5, 2020
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Staff and absenteeism just seem to go hand in hand. Sooner or later, certain employees might make a habit of coming in late.

Others might begin leaving early or calling in sick every Monday. Why is that?

No business wants to normalize absenteeism, especially if it becomes too frequent or counterproductive, let alone unjustified.

Here are our 6 top tips to counter absenteeism in the workplace.

1. Look for the Root Cause of the Problem

To better understand the issue, the first thing to do is to identify and assess the main cause. Does absenteeism seem to affect one particular employee or is it more of a widespread situation? Is absenteeism at its worst during a specific time period, for example in the evening or early in the morning? Is a certain department affected more deeply?

The idea here is to understand whether the root of the problem is the entire workplace or just one particular person.

2. Promote Open Communication

To get feedback from your team, you first need to foster an environment where  communication is transparent. This will allow your employees to openly express their needs and desires. What’s more, it will allow you to accurately assess their overall satisfaction. Is your staff happy at work? Asking this question may very well help you find answers. Besides, your staff must also have a way of telling you about the challenges they face in their personal lives. Such challenges are a common cause of absenteeism. Just remember this: clear and transparent communication is key to avoiding misunderstandings!

3. Implement an HR Policy

Once you have fully understood the situation—and made sure your staff feels free to communicate with their managers—the time has come to put forth a human resources policy if you have not already done so. The purpose of such a policy is to reduce stress and demotivation, as well as to manage expectations. It should promote a positive, safe, and healthy work environment and lay out exactly how leaves work in your organization.

What Should an HR Policy Contain?

The following elements are core. Feel free to develop further, however; the more comprehensive, the better.

  • Work hours: What is the typical work schedule like? Is it flexible? To what extent can you deviate from it?
  • Overtime compensation: Can staff work overtime? If so, how are those hours compensated for?
  • Annual leave: How many weeks are allowed, and when can employees take them? To whom can they talk to plan them?
  • Public holidays: Which ones are paid?
  • Sick leave and other time off: How many sick days are allowed per year?
  • Performance assessment: At what intervals will staff be evaluated? How will it work? Will assessments take place during a meeting or involve written documents, charts, or objectives?

4. Include an Absence Management Policy

Your broader HR management policy should include a section on absence management. To hatch one, we suggest positing different scenarios. What happens if X? What if Y follows as a consequence? And so on. It is always better to plan for as many situations as possible, unlikely though they may be.

Of course, absences might sometimes be justified, hence the importance of defining efficient and uniform criteria to assess any given reason.

The clearer the expectations, the more gray areas will be avoided. Consider escalating sanctions depending on the number and gravity of offenses. For example, you might want to give a written warning the first time an employee shows up late without notice, a verbal warning the second time, and so on.

Distinguishing Reported Absences From No-Shows

You should ask yourself the right questions: will you treat reported absences the same as no-shows? A distinction should be made here: a “no-show” is when an employee fails to attend work without notice.

5. Know Your Area’s Policy on Time Off for Family and Health Reasons 

With the aim to keep moving towards a better work-family balance, the CNESST recently spearheaded legislative amendments regarding leave for family and health reasons, amendments which only apply in Québec. As you might know already, since last year, the Act Respecting Labour Standards provides employees with ten unpaid days off for family-related reasons per year. Employers now have to pay two of those days, which may also be used for health reasons, although not cumulatively. Of course, as an employer, you have to observe these legislative amendments and include them in your HR management policy. Whether all time off must be substantiated, however, is for you to decide.

6. Monitor Staff Absences

Our final bit of advice is to keep track of staff absences in a detailed record. Some scheduling and attendance applications, such as Agendrix, allow for simple and straightforward monitoring. Such a tool will be your chief ally in identifying recurring absences in employees. It will also allow you to identify, understand, and eventually root out their causes.

Counter Employee Absenteeism Through Better Transparency and Organization!

To sum up, we have seen that the best way to minimize and control staff absenteeism is to make clear how things work in your organization. To clarify expectations, be it by implementing an HR and absence management policy or otherwise, is essential.

For more information on legislation relating to CNESST, here are two other useful sources:

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