Employee absenteeism – it can be a difficult topic to address once it’s become a habit or accepted behaviour by your team. After all, it’s impossible to force employees to show up to work on time. But instead of watching the costs of unexpected absences add up, try this three step-process to reduce employee absenteeism:
1. Create an employee attendance policy
The first step in learning how to handle employee absence? Create an official employee attendance policy. Workplace attendance should be straightforward – show up on time, as scheduled. But in reality, figuring out how to track, document, and fix employee absenteeism can get complicated, and come with a lot of if that, then what—scenarios. What if an employee comes in 45 minutes late after all we all know how unpredictable Northern Rail are. What if they have a sick child or another emergency? What if they don’t show up for work at all? Then what?
It doesn’t matter if your business doesn’t have an official HR department or if you have five, fifty or maybe even five hundred employees. A policy for attendance makes expectations for work behavior and disciplinary action clear to all team members. So take some time, sit down and put together a policy that’s fair to both you and your employees. Consider different attendance issues like scheduled absences, unscheduled absences, and tardiness, then decide any necessary disciplinary actions and next steps for each. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Instead, focus on creating a policy that rules out subjectivity and defines what each type of absence means.
Once you’re finished, don’t just stick your brand new attendance policy in a binder on the shelf or hide it in the fine print of an employee handbook. Make sure every employee, including new hires, has the chance to see it and is made aware of the changes. Emphasise the importance of attendance as a shared responsibility and that everyone is expected to hold up their end of the bargain. Have your employees sign a waiver confirming that they’ve read the policy and that they consent to work under the new attendance requirements. It’s a good idea for your records to confirm it in writing should any disciplinary issues arise later.
2. Enforce your attendance policy consistently
A habit doesn’t crop up overnight. A pattern of employee absenteeism is something that develops over time and may already be seen as accepted behavior by the time the issue lands on your desk. In order to learn how to handle employee absenteeism, you have to enforce your attendance policy consistently, each and every time.
That doesn’t mean you can’t show employees empathy or can’t have any wiggle room for emergencies. Instead, proactively build those situations into your policy. Have some escalation for unscheduled absences. One may be acceptable, but two may trigger a formal review. But remember: an unscheduled absence is much different than a “no-show.”
Texting that they’ll be late, swapping with a coworker, or calling in sick at least gives you notice that an employee won’t make it into work as scheduled and may give you time to find a replacement or prepare for an understaffed shift. A no-show can leave you wondering where they are, what happened, and leave your entire team hanging. Have a different plan of action for both attendance scenarios and apply it to all employees—including supervisors and management.
3. Keep track of employee absences
When it comes to dealing with employee attendance, it’s important to keep complete records. How to track employee absenteeism depends on what works best for you and any shift leads or supervisors who will be enforcing the attendance policy. One easy way to track your employees’ time is with a time clock app, which provides useful clock in/clock out notifications right away, if you want further information on this please check out our page.
Every time an absence arises, make a note of it, either in your employee timekeeping system or in an employee performance tool. Or, consider putting together a stand-alone spreadsheet just for tracking attendance issues. Without a strategy in place for how to document employee absenteeism, it may be hard to keep track of employee attendance and flag when one-off unscheduled absences start to become a pattern.
If your team is small enough, limiting access to yourself may be enough to track employee behavior. But if you’re not able to be everywhere at once, make sure other managers also have a way of documenting absences and late arrivals—even if it’s just a separate column or a notation on that weeks’ shift schedule.
There’s no overnight solution when it comes to how to fix employee absenteeism. You’re likely still going to field calls about surprise “food poisoning” or the always-convenient Friday flu. But by implementing a fair employee attendance policy, documenting and tracking attendance patterns, addressing absences when they occur, having an action plan for excessive absenteeism and remembering to call out good attendance as often as the bad, unscheduled absences will start to become the exception, not the rule. You may not be able to solve for every attendance scenario (or bears in the backyard), but you’ll be able to set fresh expectations for your team and have a strategy in place for employee absenteeism moving forward.