How to Manage Absenteeism in the Workplace

Absenteeism is not a unique problem to food service operations, however is usually present.  This is due to increased presence of the union environments and changing economic times. People, even in a “recession” seem to have choices, rights and more options than before.  With these in mind, Absenteeism has become not only an issue, but a cause of lower production, decreased quality of work and increased costs of labor. In this article we will discuss some common causes of absenteeism and how to handle it.

Absenteeism is caused by one of three reasons:

  • On the job causes
  • Community causes
  • Personal causes

All of the above causes tend to be followed by the word “stress”. So for example, on the job causes could be inadequate supervisors, repetition or increased workloads.  Home life can have a dramatic impact on days missed from work, some of the related causes could be: financial worries, death or illness in the family and relationships. Health Canada reported through a survey about Absenteeism that 26% is believed to be related to stress.  Taking reasons and impacts of Absenteeism into account moving forward how does a manager track and support employees with these stressors in their life to reduce absenteeism and implement health promoting initiatives.

In an article by Fay Calderone, an associate at a law firm in England.  She outlines 3 important steps in documenting and tracking employee absenteeism.  In knowing that these employees are probably facing issues it is important for these issues to not go unnoticed. The 3 steps can be applied to any operation for any manager.

1. Develop and implement, or consistently enforce an existing policy in regards to absence from work. This should include:

  • Circumstances of the leave or days taken from work i.e. sickness, death or personal reasons.
  • Procedures to be followed in event of absence, including, doctor’s assessment and notification, death certificate, or any other documentation specific to the employees absence.
  • Disciplinary actions and guidelines to be followed if non-compliance and the offer of employee counseling.

2. Keep records and paperwork as it pertains to the employee including any phone calls or meetings with the employee.  This may also include offering them a union representative present.

3. Consult Human Resources and seek their advice when unsure about any procedure and/or actions by yourself or the employee. If you do not have an HR department, consult your administration and legal advice if necessary.

If the above process is already in place, that is a good starting place to see the trends in absenteeism in your department.  By doing this exercise, you can determine what the needs are of your particular employee group and move forward with making your workplace a health promoting environment. Some sample initiatives are easy and accessible to your department through already existing programs from Human Resources.  These could include:

  • Employee and family assistance programs including counseling.  Employees need to be aware of programs like this in their workplace.
  • Individual interventions, these are effective and remain an important part of managing workplace stress. Employees may think that they cannot talk to you; however, if you make yourself approachable and introduce the subject with possible solutions and different ways of thinking, these are very effective way of dealing with specific stress situations.
  • Having a pro-active approach to training.  This could be safety related, increasing knowledge base of employees, or simply refreshing and assisting them with current stress and tasks at hand.
  • Giving employees the option of having occupational health and safety assess the ergonomics of their job, this may help with workplace injury and repetition in their job.
  • Where possible having flexible hours.  A stressor for women with small children is often the hours worked, i.e. they need to take an entire day off to take their child to the doctor.  By providing flexible work hours, where possible, as food service is run on a tight schedule, you may be able to decrease absenteeism.

In conclusion, there are a lot of policies, procedures and initiatives available for managers to work from and develop their own.  These policies and procedures are necessary in managing absenteeism and promoting a healthy work environment. Some resources available are:

This is trends, barriers and actions put forth by the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute.

Edmond –Harnden outline the steps in creating and managing a absenteeism policy and procedure.

This is a BNet Editorial that also has mathematical equations to show the cost of absenteeism to your operation.  It also has a great case study and the different approaches to absenteeism.