Handling Absenteeism At Work


Of all the things to worry about, absenteeism can give business owners, managers and supervisors sleepless nights. Having an empty office and needing to hand off work to other employees, or deal with it yourself, can be stressful. Here is how to handle employee absenteeism at work.



Every employee has the right to paid sick leave, but you'll always get some who pushes the envelope. When that happens, you’re paying someone a salary but you’re not reaping the reward of them actually doing the work. What’s more, you can’t simply accuse an employee of lying about being sick. You won’t be able to back up your accusation and they may end up providing you with a doctor’s note, which will make you look bad.

If absenteeism becomes a problem amongst your staff members you need to handle the issue delicately. It is wise to have some measures in place to reduce absenteeism. An excellent way to mitigate against employees staying off sick too often is by offering them medical cover. This forms a part of their cost to company package. Medical cover can be anything from comprehensive medical aid to a basic hospital plan. But, no matter which you choose as a corporate incentive, you must make sure to get day to day cover. This covers your employees for the medical needs that keep them off work but don’t see them admitted into hospital. So common colds and other types of infections can be easily and quickly treated.

Day to day cover is extremely valuable to your employees because medical cover is incredibly expensive to the average South African. Our public health facilities are sub par and you can wait for months before being treated. Therefore, companies who offer day to day medical cover to their employees are not only negating the reasons for being repeatedly absent but also assisting their staff with much needed optimal healthcare.

If you find yourself having to deal with employees who appear to be taking advantage of sick leave when you are fairly certain that they are not actually sick then there are some steps to take.

Make sure that your attendance guidelines and your expectations are aligned

In other words, you can’t make a big deal about attendance if you didn’t set out some specific guidelines right from the start. Make sure your employee guidelines and policy maps out exactly how the staff are to deal with being absent. Make sure everyone knows what the expectations are, when they will need to provide a doctor’s note and how many days they have for sick leave each year.

Make sure to enforce your expectations regardless of the situation. Absenteeism cannot be handled on a case by case basis or you will find yourself with some very unhappy employees. Personal issues are subjective experiences and no matter what the reason is for the employee to not be at work, they should be encouraged to follow procedure.

Consider implementing a rewards programme

You could look into creating an actual reward for excellent attendance as this can act as a motivator. There is no greater reward than a financial one, so consider this when you are looking at annual or quarterly bonuses. You can make mention of this incentive in the quarterly review process. Of course, give compassion to those who you know are absent with good reason but making your staff aware of the rewards program will motivate the majority of them to keep their attendance records in order. Often times, all your employees really need is some positive affirmation to remain motivated to do the best they can.

Implement an employee wellness programme

This ties into the day to day medical cover mentioned above. A wellness programme can take many forms. You might consider supplying a healthy lunch to your team everyday or bringing in a yoga instructor for early morning sun salutations. Alternatively, make sure you include a healthy outing in each quarter, perhaps a sunrise hike and breakfast picnic once a quarter or a team building adventure weekend away. These work very well in small to medium sized businesses. If you’re in a large corporate entity then bring in a service provider for a monthly wellness day.

Listen to your employees’ needs

If the majority of your workforce is complaining about something then listen up. Perhaps some of them have transport issues, some might be single parents and some might have ongoing health concerns; whatever their issues are, it's smart to listen to them. If you can make changes that suit your staff members better you will end up with very loyal employees. For instance, if possible, you can introduce flexi-hours because many of your employees rely on public transport or have trouble getting to work exactly when you expect them, you would be doing everyone a favour. This is an excellent way to curb absenteeism because your staff will want to come to work and will know that they are dealing with a boss who understands their needs.

Absenteeism in the workplace is frustrating, but you can take some measures to mitigate this issue, making yourself and your employees happy in the process. 

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