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Managing Absenteeism

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The management of unscheduled absences is a growing issue for many companies. These companies frequently delegate the problem to first-line supervisor who are often not trained in absenteeism management. Correcting the problem of unscheduled absemces requires a plan for managing absenteeism and the training to make the plan effective.

Managing Absenteeism

Effectively managing absenteeism, the growing problem of unscheduled absences, requires that the company recognize that the issue is a problem and then develop a plan to address the issue ansd solve the problem. Recognizing that a problem exists is pretty easy. The number of days of unscheduled absences in a period of time, a year for example, can be counted. If that number is higher than similar companies, is higher than the company goal, or is growing then the company can recognize that they have an unscheduled absenteeism problem.

The less obvious, and harder to measure, aspect is the problems caused the company by the unscheduled absenteeism issue. There will be a resentment among the workers who have to "cover" for the absent workers. There will be a decrease in productivity because of the temporary decrease in workforce. There may be a decerase in quality as less trained workers have to perform specific tasks. These costs grow quickly and it is in the best interest of the business to get them under control quickly with an effective absenteeism management plan.

Absenteeism Management Plan

An effective absenteeism management plan needs to explain to the workforce the purpose behind it and it needs their cooperation, even if there is disagreement. As with any business plan, it is important to consider the company's industry, size, location and culture. All of these play a part in how the plan is written. It is important to get input from the different levels in the organization as the plan is developed. It is still the responsibility of the company management to finalize and publish the absenteeism plan, but the acceptance of the plan is greatly enhanced by obtaining input from all the stakeholders ahead of time.

An absenteeism management plan can specify, for example, the number of days or hours per month or week, that an employee can be absent without disciplinary action. It can specify the notification required, i.e. who is to be notified, when, and how. And it can address when or whether a medical note is required on return to work.

Absenteeism Management Training

Once the plan has been developed and published, it is important that it be monitored and enforced fairly. Normally this job is given to the worker's immediate supervisor. Many first-line supervisors never receive any management training and this in another area where it is important that they be trained. To effectively manage an absenteeism plan, the supervisors must be trained in how to recognize unscheduled absences, how to deal with the employees who are absent, how to look for and recognize patterns of absence that may indicate a problem that may need an EAP referral or one that may need disciplinary action. They need to be trained in how to talk to workers returning from an unscheduled absence and how to handle and forms or processes the company's plan requires.

Absenteeism Management Monitoring

Because you will eventually want to create company-wide reports it is important that there be a level of absenteeism monitoring beyond the immediate supervisor and a standard for reporting the absences. The Human Resources Department (HR) is commonly made responsible for collecting all the absence reports from the supervisors and preparing the summary reports for upper management.

And as the supervisors are trained to look for patterns in their individual units, HR should look for patterns across organizations. Where one department is able to reduce unscheduled absences, there may be best practices that can be trained in other departments.

Bottom Line

If a company is going to reduce the cost of unscheduled absences of its workers it must
  1. Recognize that it has a problem,
  2. Develop an Absenteeism Management Plan to deal with the problem
  3. Publish the plan to the entire company
  4. Train supervisors and HR in how to monitor and enforce the plan
  5. and develp corrective action for problems encountered.
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