Absence Management – Your Guide for How to Properly Handle It

Katie Sawyer

Katie Sawyer

October 16, 2018

Absence Management – Your Guide for How to Properly Handle It

Katie Sawyer,
October 16, 2018


Absence Management – Your Guide for How to Properly Handle It

What is Absence Management?

Absence management is implementing policies and procedures to reduce your employees’ non-attendance at work. Effective absence management involves using the appropriate channels to communicate your policies to your employees. It also includes allowing HR to enforce absence policies when necessary.

The ability to get a grasp of your absence management remains a top priority for many businesses. The 2015 guardian absence management activity index and study found that, even though employers are increasingly dealing with issues such as health care reforms and budgetary constraints, absence management is still regarded as a high priority.

When an employee is recruited, they enter into a contract agreeing to be punctual, attend work regularly and provide their services in exchange for pay. These contract provisions are challenged when employees have a high absenteeism rate. It is important that employers learn how to properly manage absence because of the detrimental effect on team morale and their bottom line. Research has found that a shift worker costs a company approximately $2,600 because of absenteeism on an annual basis.

To make sure your employees always have their schedules in time to guarantee they never miss a day, as well as having the ability to swap shifts with one another to lessen the chance of a shift going unfulfilled, give Deputy a try. Deputy is an employee scheduling platform that makes it easy for employees to receive their schedules as well as being able to swap shifts with one another. To start your free trial, click on the button below.

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Causes of absenteeism

Absence Management - Your Guide for How to Properly Handle It

There are many different reasons for employees missing work. Most people who are not able to attend work do so for genuine reasons. However, there are some instances where employees do not have a valid reason for missing work.
Here are some causes of absenteeism:

  • Care obligations – Employees may have no option but to take time off work if care providers for their children or elderly parents are unavailable. Time off would also be required if a child or elderly relative unexpectedly becomes ill.
  • Stress – Employees can be experiencing stressful issues, for example, divorce or bereavement, in their private lives. They can also be going through stressful periods at work due to unrealistic workloads. Prolonged periods of overwork can result in employee burnout.
  • Sickness – Illness and injuries are a commonly reported cause of employees missing work. There are specific times of the year when incidences of sickness-based absenteeism increases, for instance, during the flu season.
  • Harassment – Some employees may miss work because they are being bullied or harassed by colleagues or their boss. In the event that the bullied employee does not feel empowered to report this behavior to HR, they are likely to opt for avoiding the situation by missing work.
  • Lack of commitment – There are some employees who are not invested in their jobs and, as a result, find it easy to miss work because they are not interested in going. Disengaged employees have no motivation to attend work and will continue to be absent as long as they feel they can get away with it.
  • Accidents and injuries – Employees can suffer injuries from accidents in or out of the workplace. Chronic pain, such as back problems, is regularly cited as a cause of employees being unable to attend work.
  • Looking for work – When employees want to move on from your company, they are likely to take days off to attend job interviews or visit job agencies to explore their career options.
  • Working part shifts – Absenteeism can take the form of employees getting to work late, leaving early and taking longer breaks than permitted. This type of absenteeism is time theft and has a negative impact on colleagues who work their scheduled hours.
  • Depression – Mental Health America advised that depression is one of the most costly illnesses and costs more than $51 billion in absenteeism from work. Depression is also one of the top three workplace problems after family crises and stress.

Absenteeism management policy

Absence Management - Your Guide for How to Properly Handle It

It is recommended that you create an absence management policy to properly handle the attendance issues in your business. This policy states your expectations in relation to:

  • Regular and consistent attendance.
  • Employee wellness.
  • Absence notification procedures.
  • Attendance records.

Your absence management policy should be part of the employee handbook, which must be provided to new hires during the onboarding process.

An effective absence management policy should contain the following provisions:

  • A definition of absence

Absenteeism can cover a wide range of scenarios, ranging from vacation, illness and family-related emergencies. The purpose of your absence management policy is to concentrate on absences that cause disruption to the working environment. A distinction should be made between scheduled and unscheduled absences so that your employees are clear about the circumstances that will result in negative consequences for them.

Absence Management - Your Guide for How to Properly Handle It

  • The difference between innocent and culpable absence

Your employees need to understand the difference between innocent and culpable absence and how your business will deal with each one.

The definitions of the two types of absenteeism are as follows:

Innocent or non-culpable absenteeism is when the employee is not at fault. This type of absenteeism will not result in disciplinary action. However, you are within your rights to take another type of action, for example, coaching to help your employee reduce their absenteeism.

Culpable absenteeism is where the employee has the responsibility and power to correct their absence pattern and is, therefore, at fault. You can hold your employee responsible in these circumstances and can start disciplinary procedures if the behavior continues.

In order to determine which category of absenteeism your employee’s absence falls into, you should require regular updates and evidence, if necessary, when your employee misses work.

You should enforce your absence management process every time your employer has an unscheduled absence. Your absence management policy should include details of medical or other information required when your employees miss work. Please note that, due to confidentiality reasons, you may have a limited right to your employees’ medical information. It is recommended that you seek advice from a labor lawyer to find out about the documentation you can legally request.

Absenteeism reporting procedure

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Your employees need to be informed about how and when they should report their absence. Traditionally, employees would need to call in to inform their managers that they will not be attending work. Calling in could result in confusion, especially when a manager has to arrange another shift.

After the manager has received the call, they would then need to rush around to find a replacement. Another issue with receiving information over the phone is that the responsibility is on the manager to record the conversation accurately for record-keeping. Records of the reasons for absence need to be precise as they may be required in relation to disciplinary action if the employee’s absenteeism has gotten out of control.

Ideally, the process of reporting an absence will be as smooth as possible for you and your employee. With Deputy’s solution, your employees can contact you through the secure portal when they are unable to attend work. This will enable you to have the exact reason for their non-attendance which will be stored on their work record. Deputy also has the functionality to suggest alternatives to fill the shift, taking into account relevant legislation, like predictive scheduling. Contact us for a demo to find out how Deputy can help you to properly manage absenteeism in your workplace.


The absenteeism process

Absence Management - Your Guide for How to Properly Handle It

Your absence management policy should specify when employees’ absence will trigger different types of actions.

Training managers and supervisors

Managers and supervisors will need to be trained to deal with absent employees according to your absence management policy.

Supervisors and managers should be aware that their responsibilities in terms of absence management include:

  • Making sure that employees are aware of the absence management policy.
  • Keeping accurate and detailed records of employee absences.
  • Carrying out return-to-work interviews.
  • Applying disciplinary procedures, if necessary.

Stages of absence management

Your attendance management policy should include the process that must be followed in the event of absences.

The following are elements that should be included in your absence management policy:

  • The return-to-work interview

A return-to-work interview is an effective way to manage short-term absenteeism. This interview should be done by an immediate supervisor or manager. Return-to-work interviews show your employees that you are concerned about their well-being and are also committed to taking control of any absenteeism issues.

Any essential paperwork needs to be completed during the interview. The interview should be professional and clearly demonstrate that your company’s absence management procedure will be followed. The official and investigatory nature of the return-to-work interview may deter some employees from taking unscheduled time off work unless absolutely necessary.

In order to increase the effectiveness of the return-to-work interview, the interview must be done quickly. Ideally, the manager or supervisor will meet on the day the employee returns. The employee needs to be allowed to explain why they missed work. This is an opportunity for the employee to talk about any underlying issues relating to their absence.

If your employee’s absence continues to be above acceptable levels, you may need to recommend disciplinary procedures by following these guidelines:

Counseling interview

Absence Management - Your Guide for How to Properly Handle It

  • Your employee should be advised that there is a concern in relation to their absences.
  • When the employee discloses a medical issue, which could impact their suitability to do the job, the supervisor or manager should organize for the employee to visit a doctor who is approved by your company. The doctor’s appointment should be confirmed to the employee within five working days, in writing.
  • If the supervisor or manager realizes that the absences are not because of issues with fitness to work, they need to notify the employee that there needs to be an improvement in attendance. The next stage of the absence management process will be initiated, where there is no improvement.
  • The employee needs to be advised that their absence situation will be monitored every month over the next six months.

First formal review (verbal warning)

  • If the employee’s attendance does not improve, invite them to a formal review meeting.
  • You should provide details of the employee’s absences in writing and give them the chance to invite a colleague or union representative to the meeting.
  • The meeting should be used to discuss reasons for the absence and the costs of the absence.
  • Provide a verbal warning by informing the employee that, if there isn’t a consistent improvement in attendance, their employment could be terminated because they are unable to keep acceptable attendance levels.

Second formal review (written warning)

Absence Management - Your Guide for How to Properly Handle It

  • Where there has been no improvement in the employee’s absenteeism record, HR will need to organize a second meeting.
  • The invitation will be in writing with the absence record. The employee will be invited to bring a colleague or a union representative to the meeting.
  • A company doctor will assess any medical information provided.
  • The employee will be encouraged to talk about the reasons for their absence. The supervisor or manager will inform the employee that they are being issued with a formal written warning. The written warning will be kept on the employee’s file for a specific amount of time.
  • The employee must be notified that their employment will be terminated if their attendance does not improve.

Temporary suspension from work

You could suspend the employee temporarily without pay if their absence record does not improve. The employee should be provided with a copy of the suspension letter, which must include the start and end dates of the suspension period.

Terminate the employment

  • The last stage of the absence management disciplinary process can only take place when a senior manager and HR authorize it.
  • A letter should be given to the employee, advising that they can take a representative with them to the termination of employment interview.
  • The company-approved doctor may need to be contacted again if new medical information has been provided.
  • The employee should receive a letter explaining the reasons for termination and the appeal procedure, if applicable.

There are both strategic and practical elements to properly handling your absence management. Your absence management policy sets out the plan to deal with absent employees. Adequate training will enable your managers and supervisors to implement your absence procedures.


Deputy is the right tool to assist in managing and scheduling your workforce so your business will continue to operate smoothly when employees take unscheduled absences. To learn more and experience it for yourself, click on the button now to begin your trial now.

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Important Notice
The information contained in this article is general in nature and you should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs. Legal and other matters referred to in this article are of a general nature only and are based on Deputy's interpretation of laws existing at the time and should not be relied on in place of professional advice. Deputy is not responsible for the content of any site owned by a third party that may be linked to this article and no warranty is made by us concerning the suitability, accuracy or timeliness of the content of any site that may be linked to this article. Deputy disclaims all liability (except for any liability which by law cannot be excluded) for any error, inaccuracy, or omission from the information contained in this article and any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Katie Sawyer
Katie is the Director of Content Marketing at Deputy. She's happiest when she can help people do more of what they love. She likes telling stories, meeting new people, and being a word nerd.
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