5 steps to dealing with employee absenteeism

Amidst all the technological innovations in the ever-changing pace of today’s  business world, some things never change and the problem of employee absenteeism remains the most consistent threat to the consistency and success of a company. Employees phoning in sick is a major problem across every industry and it’s the responsibility of a director, manager or supervisor to ensure that excessive absenteeism is curbed.

Without consistent staffing, companies simply cannot be expected to deliver on all fronts. Here are our top five steps to dealing with employee sickness.

1. Always consider reasons for absence

As a decision maker, it’s important to have a respectful relationship with your staff and sometimes the reasons for absence are genuine…that’s the first thing we need to understand. Quite often, you can trust your instinct to guide you but it’s important to look for patterns in absenteeism. If you believe an employee’s behaviour to be suspicious and their sickness is falling at the same time every month – or worse, week – it’s time to take action.

2. Produce performance plans

Before making any rash judgements, it’s important that you give employees an opportunity to explain themselves. Uncover the problems and treat your first one-on-one chat with the employee as a discussion, not a disciplinary. Your goal should be to understand the problems facing your employee and subsequently, put steps in place to help. If there’s a work related problem, perhaps there are steps that you can take to help (alter hours, diffuse tensions between colleagues etc).

Alternatively, there could be problems in an employee’s personal life that are affecting his or her ability to perform in work. If absenteeism is consistent, your employee could be dealing with anything from dying relatives to a dependency on abusive substances. If this is the case, offer help and be prepared to follow through with it.

After developing a mutual understanding and respect, move forward with a performance plan that can set specific goals for improvement – with attendance being one of them. Use a logical timeframe and warn that if things don’t improve, there could be more serious consequences further down the road.

3. Introduce incentives for present employees

If you’re in control of company policy, it’s worth looking at potential incentive plans that could curb absenteeism throughout the rest of your team. For loyal, consistent and punctual employees, introduce a reward system that boosts morale and recognises the valuable role that these people play in your business. There’s never a guarantee that you can control absenteeism, but this is a step in the right direction.

4. Bring in temporary staff and name badges

If excessive sickness at work continues and a member of staff can no longer fulfil their duties, always be prepared to hire temporary workers, who will be enthusiastic, driven and keen to make a good impression. One of the few downsides to using temporary workers is that it could result in a high turnover of staff, which is why breeding quick familiarity between temp workers and permanent members of your team is essential.

Making them feel welcome is important so be sure to give reusable name badges to all temp workers. Name badges will assist with current employees getting to know their new workers quicker, which will foster a harmonious staff that is all pulling in one direction.

5. Develop a clear sickness/absenteeism policy

In order to move forward with minimum problems, all staff need to know where they stand with regards the company’s official policy on absenteeism. A written policy will help you deal with more effectively and make employees think twice before phoning in. Make sure all employees understand the differences between paid and unpaid leave and the consequences of sickness for you and their colleagues. Staff with a good morale will want to work for one another, not let each other down.

Once the final step is in place, be prepared to crackdown quickly on any emerging patterns of employee sickness. At the first sign of absenteeism, phone an employee, check on their status and get an estimated date when they’re able to return to work. Remind any absent employees that you need to be notified of their problem as soon as possible. Always reference the staff meeting where you introduced your organisation’s absenteeism policy.

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