When absenteeism becomes a problem, some employers adopt a “point system” policy. It works something like this: For every unexcused absence an employee loses “X” points. When the employee loses a total of “Y” points in a certain time period, he or she is disciplined.
One employer asks the following question relating to absenteeism and a point system:
- For the past couple of years we’ve been using a point system for controlling absenteeism. When employees are absent due to illness we require a doctor’s note. This system is not working. Doctors appear to be more than happy to provide their patients with notes. Do you have suggestions that might work better than what we’re doing to control absenteeism?
- You might scrap the point system. Some employers view point systems for controlling absenteeism as archaic. They turn the employer, managers and supervisors into enforcers and waste their time.
Before adopting an approach that could work better, analyze your absenteeism and identify its patterns and its causes. For example, does absenteeism go up on Fridays and Mondays? Is it because some employees want to take four-day fishing weekends? Or is it because some employees like to start partying on Fridays and need Monday to recuperate? Or are most of the employees who frequently fail to report to work confronted with disruptive personal problems?
Once you have a good picture of absenteeism in your workplace, you can pick some of the following approaches to deal with it.
Here are Some Strategies to Consider:
- Change your payday. This strategy can help reduce absenteeism if most of your absenteeism happens on the same day of the week, especially if your payroll is still done the old-fashioned way, with paper checks. For example, you might discover most of your absenteeism is on Mondays. You might change your payday to Monday as a way to encourage employees who like to extend their weekends to get in to work.
- Recruit and hire better people, people with the good, old-fashioned work ethic. This may be more difficult to do now than in the past. However, you can increase your chances of hiring reliable people by testing applicants for reliable work behavior traits.
- If you require a doctor’s certification of an illness to approve an absence, give specific guidance to the doctor. Provide the doctor with the employee’s job description, showing clear, measurable job tasks. Request that the doctor indicate if the employee is physically able to perform the tasks and which tasks the employee is not able to perform without reasonable accommodation.
- Why police the employee’s leave, as in the item above? Instead, give your employees personal leave in place of sick leave. Don’t require an excuse.
- Decide how much absenteeism you can tolerate. It could be three unexcused absences in a year. Whatever you decide. Absence in excess of your toleration point results in discipline. You could begin with a reduction in pay. A repeat of the abuse results in termination.
- Give rewards to encourage reporting to work. Some examples: Pay employees for unused sick leave or personal leave. (The downside of this: It can encourage employees to report to work when ill, spreading their sickness to other employees.) Allow employees to accrue and carry over sick and personal time from year-to-year. Pay bonuses for perfect attendance: Perhaps a $25 gift certificate for perfect monthly or quarterly attendance. Give recognition to employees with the best attendance records. Recognize good attendance when deciding on the size of pay increases.
- Terminate employees who abuse your absenteeism policy. Then focus on hiring applicants who are willing to work when scheduled. (See the second strategy above.)
- Ensure your employee handbook adequately spells out time, attendance, leave, and sick policies
While absenteeism can pose a challenge for employers, most employees are following the workplace guidelines. The key, from an HR perspective, when dealing with an employee who is posing challenges is “document, document, document”. In the event the issue escalates and the employer must decide to part ways, good documentation in the HR file will support the action of termination of employment and will not typically leave room for a labor challenge.