Monday, February 4, 2008


What is absent or absenteeism?
What does it mean and can I overlook it or should I deal with it? What will happen if I don't deal with it? What harm can it do if an employee is a few minutes late?
Absent does not only mean not being at work. Absent also means:

Arriving late (or poor timekeeping, if you like. It is still absent as long as the employee is not at work.)

Leaving early (again, if you like, poor timekeeping. It is still absent if he is not at work)

Extended tea or lunch breaks - the employee is not at the workstation, and therefore absent.

Attending to private business during working hours - the employee is at work, but is not attending to his/her duties in terms of the employment contract - and is therefore absent.
toilet breaks - same as extended lunch or tea breaks.

Feigned illness - thus giving rise to unnecessary visits to the on-site clinic, or take time off to "visit the doctor" - which they never do, because they don't need a medical certificate for less than 2 days off.

Undue length of time in fetching or carrying (tools from the tool room, for example, or drawings from the drawing office, etc)

Other unexplained absences from the workstation or from the premises.

There are a number of remedies- a large number, in fact - that can be used to combat this scourge.
The duty of the employee to be at work.

The very basis of the employment contract (whether written or not) is that the employee has to:
[a] come to work, and [b] be on time

in order to perform the duties which he/she has been hired to do, and he/she must remain at the workstation for the contracted number of hours per day in order to perform the requisite duties.

If the employee does not do that, he/she cannot fulfill his/her contractual obligation, and is therefore in breach of contract.

This obligation - to come to work and stay on the job whilst at work - does not only come out of the Employment Contract. It arises also from three other sources - Common Law, Statutes, and Company Rules and Regulations.
Absence from Work.

Absence where the employee does not turn up for work at all can sometimes be the most difficult type of absenteeism to handle - simply because there can be a host of reasons for this, and you will have to sift out the truth from the B.S. before deciding what action to take.
Remember though that the employee must justify the absence.

This type of absence may be due to personal problems - sick wife, sick kids, urgent financial crisis, death in the family or death of a close relative, or some other domestic crisis that requires the employee to stay at home to handle it.
Under such circumstances, the employee should notify you by telephone, by a message delivered with another employee, by a telephone call from a friend to you, by a runner with a cleft stick, or some means. It is very seldom that there is just no means whatsoever of notifying the employer of the absence - the usual excuse (totally unacceptable) is that "there was no telephone."
How to Deal with Employee Absenteeism
Change Management Style: We are all aware of the fact that when employees call in ill, it does not mean they are truly too physically ill to work. One reason, outside of illness, that employees are absent is stress, and the number one reason employees are stressed has to do with their relationship with their manager/supervisor.Management styles that are too authoritarian tend to promote high levels of absenteeism among employees. Authoritarian managers are managers who have poor listening skills, set unreachable goals, have poor communication skills, and are inflexible. In other words, they yell too much, blame others for problems, and make others feel that it must be their way or the "highway." Authoritarian managers tend to produce high absenteeism rates. By identifying managers who use an authoritarian style, and providing them with management training, you will be taking a positive step not only toward reducing absenteeism, but also reducing turnover, job burnout, and employee health problems such as backaches and headaches.
Change Working Conditions: The employees in your company probably work in a well-lighted climate controlled building. The working conditions I am referring to relate to coworker relationships. Not only does relationship stress occur between the employee and manager, but it also exists between employees. Frequently I hear employees say they did not go to work because they are fearful of or angry with another employee. These employees usually report they just could not deal with "so and so" today, so they called in ill. Companies that adopted policies and values that promote employee respect and professionalism, and promote an internal conflict resolution procedure, are companies that reduce employee stress. A reduction in employee stress reduces employee absenteeism.
Provide Incentives: Giving employees incentives for reduced absenteeism is not the same as rewarding or giving employees bonuses for reduced absenteeism. An incentive provides an employee with a boost to their motivation to avoid unnecessary absenteeism. It simply helps the employee decide to go to work versus staying home .The types of incentive programs used by companies are numerous. Some companies allow employees to cash-in unused sick days at the end of every quarter, others give an employee two hours of bonus pay for every month of perfect attendance; and still others provide employees with a buffet lunch, a certificate of achievement, or even a scratch-off card concealing prizes. The type of incentive program that your company uses should be one created especially for your company.

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