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Absenteeism in the Organization

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What is absenteeism? It's not just about occasionally being absent from work for a day or two. While your employer's definition may vary, absenteeism generally refers to a pattern of being absent from work.

Absenteeism does not include excused absences when an employer has given an employee permission to be away from work.

The cost of absenteeism

Absenteeism is costly to both the employee and the employer. The employee may not be paid for excessive absences or may even lose their job if they call in sick or have other absences. Since most employees in the U.S. are considered "employed at will," the employer can fire them for almost any reason - or for no reason at all.

Note: Unless you are protected by a union agreement or a specific contract, you run the risk that your employer will decide to replace you permanently if you miss too many days of work.

Absenteeism also affects the employer's bottom line. Absent employees affect a company's productivity, turnover and costs.

Absenteeism contributes to employee turnover, increased labor costs when replacements must be hired, and other management and hiring costs. The Integrated Benefits Institute, a nonprofit research organization, reports that employee absences due to illness cost the U.S. economy $530 billion annually.

Find Out More...Reasons why do you need an employee absence management system

What is an excused absence?

All employers expect that employees will occasionally need time off from work, and many employers have company policies that provide for paid time off under approved circumstances. Other employers do not offer pay, but allow their employees to take time off when needed.

However, employers are not required by law to provide vacation or sick days except under conditions mandated by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). They are required to allow employees to serve on jury duty, but there are no federal laws mandating pay for service. (Although some states have their own statutory provisions).

Regardless of the law, however, most employers will excuse absences from work for certain reasons, such as vacation, illness, or bereavement. Proof of your leave (a jury duty notice, doctor's note, death notice, etc.) is usually sufficient for an employer to excuse the absence from work. However, employers can identify and track trends in how often an employee is absent and what the reasons are.

Occasional absences

Most employers allow a certain number of days off for excused absences. These days are sometimes assigned as flexible days that can be used for any reason or as vacation or sick time.

Some employers require that paid time off (PTO) be used when an employee is sick. This is to encourage employees to show up whenever possible. However, employees often feel obligated to come to work when they are sick and end up spreading germs and illness to their co-workers. This can lead to office-wide absenteeism and low productivity.

Chronic Absence Disciplinary Action

When a person is regularly absent from work, it is considered a chronic absence. This may be a violation of the employment contract and may result in suspension or termination from employment.

Chronic absenteeism includes non-occasional excused absences such as unexpected health or personal problems.

Chronic absenteeism is often an indicator of poor employee performance, low morale, workplace hazards, an illness, or psychological problems. Causes may include personal or family illness, injury, family or personal obligations, workplace bullying, a heavy workload, bullying, depression, lack of commitment, job search, or family circumstances. However, illness or injury is the most common reason cited by most employees.

How employers can respond to absenteeism issues

What happens when absenteeism becomes a problem at your company? Your employer can take one of several actions.

  • Performance improvement plans address productivity and performance issues. When a performance improvement plan is well designed, it facilitates discussion between an employee and management about the employee's contribution to team goals and helps them get back on track.
  • One on One performance appraisals give employers the opportunity to address absenteeism issues, provide employees with an opportunity to self-assess their productivity, and can create a positive dialogue between the employee and supervisor. Performance appraisals and other types of employee reviews can remove barriers and lay the groundwork for lower absenteeism in the future.
  • Clear policies for sick and excused absences help eliminate any gray area around taking days off.
  • Incentive plans can also help boost morale and encourage employees to come to work every day.

The key points in a nutshell

Employers have different policies regarding absences from work. Consult your employee handbook or HR policies to learn more.

Most workers in the U.S. are employed at will, which means they can be terminated at any time and for any reason.

These include vacation, sick leave, bereavement, etc. Depending on the employer and the circumstances, leave may be paid or unpaid.

Like to invest on a Absence Management System? Try IceHrm today.

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