Every supervisor and HR pro knows that managing employee time off is a fact of life in the modern workplace. Whether it’s a well-deserved vacation, personal time to attend to family or private business, or sick leave, accommodating an employee’s need for time away from the office is widely accepted as good business practice and an effective retention tool. In some cases, such as FMLA and jury duty, it’s also the law. But when it becomes excessive, employee absenteeism can damage your productivity, profitability, and morale.
Employee absenteeism is generally defined as a circumstance in which an employee is habitually absent or not present during scheduled work hours. The absences can be either scheduled or unscheduled, and exceed the employee’s allotted time off as outlined by company policy and in the employee handbook. In some instances, excessive lateness can also be construed as absenteeism.
Your first and most effective strategy in managing absenteeism is to develop a clearly defined attendance and absence policy, and communicate that policy to new and existing employees via your employee handbook. While the needs of every business and industry will differ, your attendance policy should spell out specific expectations, including a definition of the workday and hours; the amount of sick, personal, and vacation time allotted to employees; and procedures for taking that time. Outline how far in advance employees must notify their supervisors of their intention to take time off, and whether those requests must be approved based on departmental and corporate needs—for example, the need for work coverage during the summer or over holidays. Also explain the procedures for calling in sick, including whom to contact and by what time on a given day. Finally, note whether absences are compensated or not.