Glossary of Human Resources Management and Employee Benefit Terms
Absence management policy is an effort to reduce employee absences through company-wide programs and policies. Missed days at work can be costly, leading to losses in both productivity and profits. Absences due to illness and injury are inevitable at any workplace. But policies that discourage excessive or unnecessary absenteeism offer financial benefits, as well as preventing workplace disruption or overburdening colleagues who make up the lost work.
Human Resources teams take an active role in developing and promoting absence management policy and procedure. Each company needs to develop absence policies that are relevant to the organization’s needs. To actually impact behavior, these policies must be communicated clearly to employees at all levels throughout the company. Employees should know what is expected of them in terms of work attendance and calling in sick. Policy examples could be part of regular trainings from HR managers to inform and remind employees about staff absence policy.
Absence policy should be fair, consistent, and able take into account sickness and other unforeseen circumstances that may prompt employees to miss work. A typical staff absence policy will usually outline the procedure an employee is expected to follow when he or she must miss work. This may include details such as who to inform, how, and by when. In addition, employees should know how absence data is recorded and measured, and what will happen when they return back to work following a long absence—this might include an interview and discussions for how to make up the missed work and integrate into current team projects.
Absence policy should also include a statement regarding pay for missed days of work. It would outline how many sick or personal days an employee can take before they are no longer eligible for paid time off. In the occasion that work absences become an ongoing problem for an employee, there should be a plan for disciplinary action.
A comprehensive staff absence policy takes into account the various reasons why an employee might miss work. For example, these reasons might include:
Short-term health leave due to sickness
Long-term health-related leave due to serious sickness, injury, or surgery
Long- or short-term unauthorized leave
Parental or caregiver leave
An HR team might consider these and other reasons why an employee might miss work when developing absence policy. Specific policies and relevant disciplinary action should be outlined for each type of absence.
The best absence management policies are ones that are clear and fair, and developed to fit the needs and resources of the organization. They strike a careful balance between offering sufficient time off to account for sickness, and being strict enough to discourage unnecessary absence and lost productivity.
Beyond focusing only on helping employees avoid missing days of work, absence policy may include programs to encourage attendance, such as offering flexible schedules and worktimes, or allowing employees to occasionally work remotely. This way if they need to be out of the office for medical appointments, family obligations, or other personal reasons, they have a means to make up for the lost productivity on their own time.
Another way to encourage attendance might be to put a positive spin on absence management policy, perhaps referring to it instead as attendance management policy. Instead of fearing the consequences of missing too much work, employees could be trained on the savings, productivity, collaboration, and other benefits of being present. Employees may even be rewarded for consistent attendance. However, this could backfire by encouraging sick employees to come into the office. Make sure absence policies offer generous time off and work-from-home options in case of sickness to avoid spreading germs around the office.
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