Handling absenteeism effectively requires a strong, well-thought-out approach.
Managing employee attendance is easy enough when you have responsible people that only take time off when needed. And you want to encourage people to call in sick when they are unwell so that no one else catches whatever bug is going around.
You need a rock-solid absenteeism policy, and here is what to put in it.
Sufficient Paid Time Off
Wait! Aren't we trying to maximize the time people are at work? Not exactly. What we want to do is instill responsibility in our workforce and minimize managing employee absenteeism. If you don't allow your employees to take time off for vacation, they aren't going to skip their sister's wedding; they are simply going to call in sick.
Moneyish reports that 40 percent of people have called in sick, even though they were healthy, just to have a day off. If you and impose reasonable advance notice requirements, people will schedule their time off and tell you in advance. Without it? They just don't show up. The first step to managing employee attendance is to give employees enough vacation time.
If you're sick, what do you do? Do you call your boss? Send a text?
All of these methods work, but your policies need to be clear on what is and what isn't acceptable.
How early does an employee have to call in? Are they expected to call and get someone else to cover her shift? In general, a company should have a general call out process and apply that consistently across the workforce. This would include the method of communication (email, text, ensure you get a live person on the phone, etc.) as well as how far in advance an employee must provide notice.
Navigating Compliance Rules
When you stay home from work because you have a sore throat, how a business counts that is up to the individual organization (it may be covered under state or local paid sick time). But, if you stay at home because of something that qualifies for protection under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act, paid sick leave rules, as well as state or local anti-discrimination rules that provide protections to individuals with disabilities, among others — it's entirely different.
If, for instance, your employee has cancer and needs to be out once a week for chemotherapy, and they qualify for protection under FMLA, it doesn't matter how busy you are — they get those days off, without fear of retaliation.
If an employee has chronic back pain and has been approved for intermittent FMLA, they may not even have to give you advanced notice for the days they need to take off. It all depends on when their back pain flairs up. FMLA Insights recommends a separate call-in procedure for someone on intermittent FMLA. They suggest that if the leave is protected, employees not only tell their supervisor they'll be out but also call whoever manages the leave. This is usually someone in human resources. This way, you don't inadvertently count their bout of flu toward their FMLA-covered days.
Likewise, if extra days off is considered a reasonable accommodation for someone with a disability, you need to have a call-in procedure.
In some states and cities, sick days are required by law. Make sure your sick policy is in line with these laws. If you have employees who perform work in multiple cities or states, you may have multiple sets of sick day laws you need to follow. These paid sick leave laws only provide for minimal requirements, and you can pick the most generous policy to apply to all employees, provided it meets each applicable state or local rule.
You've given a fair amount of vacation, established call-in procedures, followed the laws, and an employee continues to be absent, or doesn't call in. You've also already established that the reasons were not protected under any of the above laws. How do you react?
The right answer is fairly. When managing employee absenteeism, you give warnings, document and discipline in a manner consistent with company policies and practices. You need to treat all similarly situated employees the same way. If you allow Jane to take extra days off because she's a single mom, and fire Brad, who also has children, for taking the same amount of time, you could find yourself in hot water.
If employee discipline scares you, it's because you're a nice person. That's why you make your policies fair and even-handed, and then policy violators have only themselves to blame.