5 Tips for Curbing Employee Absenteeism

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 3% of full-time employees took time off work during a randomly selected week in 2020. However, the report does not identify nonattendances that are due to absenteeism — an employee’s willful or habitual absence from work.

As an employer, you expect absences. But excessive no-shows can wreak havoc on productivity and your profit margin. Often, employees who are present are expected to pick up the slack — which can cause morale to plummet. 

Below are five strategies to help you ward off absenteeism.

1. Clearly communicate your attendance expectations.

During new-hire orientations, tell employees the times they are expected to start and leave work. Refer them to your attendance policy, which should be in your employee handbook. The handbook should explain what constitutes excused and unexcused absences and excessive absenteeism. For example, excessive absenteeism may be defined as one or more unexcused absences over the course of 30 days.

Employees should understand that absenteeism applies not only to missing full days but also to arriving to work late, leaving work early, and taking unauthorized extended breaks.

2. Require a doctor’s note.

Employees falsely calling in sick is one of the main forms of absenteeism. Because it can be tough at times to know whether an employee is truly ill, many employers require a doctor’s note. Usually, a doctor’s note is required after the employee has missed a specific number of days — typically, that number is three.

If you’re going to request doctors’ notes to substantiate absences, be sure to make it part of your attendance policy. The policy on doctors’ notes must apply to all employees.

3. Take disciplinary action when appropriate. 

By enforcing your attendance policy, you help deter future violations. Enforcement includes disciplining employees who habitually or willfully break the company’s attendance rules. Disciplinary measures may include written warnings and termination. Your attendance policy should state the number of unexcused absences that will result in disciplinary action.

4. Track absenteeism. 

By tracking absenteeism, you can pinpoint which employees are violating your attendance policy. You can also measure the impact of absenteeism on productivity and the effectiveness of your implemented solutions.

There are several ways to measure absenteeism. One formula is to divide the number of unexcused absences for a specific period of time — such as a month, a quarter, or a year —by the number of days in the time period. Then, multiply the result by 100 to arrive at your absenteeism percentage.

More specificity on absenteeism can be obtained by referring to employees’ time sheets and any other documentation related to time and labor. 

5. Incentivize your employees to come to work.

There could be hidden reasons why your employees are habitually absent. It could be because they don’t receive enough paid time off, they don’t enjoy their work or find it stimulating, or they’re not happy with their compensation. Try to find the meaning behind their absenteeism, especially in cases where the employee has performed well in the past.

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