What Is Absence Management in HR?
When employees are absent from work, whether due to illness, injury, or for another reason, Human Resources teams use absence management policies, procedures, and software in order to track and control the impact of absences on the organization.
The main goals of absence management are to minimize the negative impact of employee absences on the organization, to ensure that employees receive the support they need to return to work, and to keep the organization compliant with federal and state leave guidelines.
Absence management can include a range of strategies and interventions, such as training and educating employees, providing flexible work arrangements, offering health and wellness programs, and establishing compliant disciplinary policies for excessive or unauthorized absences.
Effective absence management improves employee engagement, productivity, and overall organizational performance while preventing the organization from behaving improperly or inconsistently towards its employees with regard to time off.
What Is Absence Management Software?
Absence management software is designed to streamline the process of tracking and approving employee absences, reducing the administrative burden on your HR team. Common features include:
- Employee self-service portals where employees can request time off and view their available vacation and sick leave balances.
- Automated workflows that route time-off requests to managers for approval.
- Dashboards and reporting tools that provide HR departments and managers with insights into employee absence trends and patterns.
- Integration with HRIS (Human Resources Information System) or payroll systems to ensure accurate tracking of employee time and attendance.
By automating the process of managing employee absences, businesses can reduce errors, ensure compliance with labor laws, and improve overall productivity.
For example, the BambooHR platform includes an important element of absence management in the form of time-off tracking–employees can enter the BambooHR self-service portal, view their time off balances, and request time off from their employer. Their manager is automatically notified of their request, and can approve or deny it with the click of a button.
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How to Use Absence Tracking Data
Absence tracking data is a valuable tool for HR professionals. In addition to the need for accurate hourly data as part of payroll, having and understanding data on employee absences helps HR professionals make smarter decisions about the absence management policies they create.
Absence tracking data can be used to identify trends, develop strategies to manage employee coverage, improve productivity, and reduce costs associated with absenteeism.
Absence tracking data can also help HR professionals identify when employees may need support. For example, if an employee has been increasingly or consistently absent due to a medical condition, HR can offer resources or accommodations to help the employee remain productive while addressing their health needs.
Similarly, if an employee has frequent absences due to a family member's medical condition, HR can provide information about FMLA and other leave options to help the employee balance their work and caregiving responsibilities.
4 Tips for Creating an Absence Management Policy
1. Explain Why You Need a Policy
Absence management policy is a rule or set of rules designed to reduce employee absences through company-wide guidelines and programs. Missed days at work can be costly, leading to losses in both productivity and profits. Absences due to illness and injury are inevitable, but policies that discourage unnecessary absenteeism reduce costs and prevent workplace disruption or overburdening colleagues who make up the lost work.
Absence policy should be fair, consistent, and take into account sickness and other unforeseen circumstances that prompt employees to miss work. 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.
2. Tell Employees What to Expect
An effective absence management policy will include a communication strategy outlining the procedures an employee is expected to follow when they must miss work. This may include details such as who to inform, how, and by when.
In addition, employees should know how their time-off policy works, how time off is accrued, 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, or it might involve a clear-cut return-to-work process of retraining or gradual reintegration into a schedule or role.
Absence policy should also include a statement regarding compensation 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. If work absences become an ongoing problem for an employee, there should be a plan for disciplinary action.
3. Include All Potential Reasons for Absenteeism
A comprehensive absence management policy takes into account the various reasons why an employee might miss work. These reasons might include:
- Short-term health leave due to illness
- Long-term health-related leave due to serious illness, injury, or surgery
- Persistent lateness or early departure
- Long- or short-term unauthorized leave
- Parental or caregiver leave
- Bereavement or mental health leave
An HR team should consider these and any other reasons why an employee might miss work when developing an absence management policy. Specific policies and relevant disciplinary action should be outlined for each type of absence.
4. Encourage Attendance
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 work remotely part-time or full-time. 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.
Another way to encourage attendance is to put a positive message behind absence management policy. Instead of fearing the consequences of missing too much work, employees should understand how the policy will help them balance personal issues with work, remain highly valued and on track for advancement, and other benefits.
Employees should understand that while their presence and contribution is important, there are no penalties for legitimate absences and no rewards for being at work when they should be taking time off—for example, when they are sick and could spread their illness to coworkers.
A clear, comprehensive, and well-communicated absence management policy that makes employees feel supported, protected, and cared for is the most effective kind.
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