Absence Management

Businesses thrive on employee productivity. In very basic terms, the more productive your employees are the more output they offer and the more revenue you generate. Both the long-term success and short-term survival of any business depend heavily on maximizing the productive potential of your workforce. Obviously, for an employee to be productive, they need to be present on the job, whether in-person or virtually. That is why employee absenteeism is a significant factor that most businesses are keen on keeping to the bare minimum.

Many businesses have some form of absence management systems in use, such as a paid leave policy and a threshold for scheduled hours to access leave privileges. But is your absence management policy calibrated for factors like presenteeism, or could it be improved to safely and sustainably manage absences in the workplace? Read on to find out more.

What Is Absence Management?

Absenteeism points to a significant flaw in your workforce management. Employee absenteeism is a critical consideration across a large number of industries, and for good reason. Managing absences inefficiently has a very direct impact on your business’s ability to deliver good services/products. This subsequently impacts your brand and credibility as a reliable seller of products or services.

Unscheduled absenteeism can also strain crucial support processes, such as information security, workplace safety, and even customer service. Managing these absences effectively is always a top priority across a range of industries and business models. Otherwise, you’ll only end up with impaired productivity and workforce mismanagement on your hands.

Why Is Absence Management Important?

Managing absences effectively is good for business. Put another way, mismanaging absences is extremely bad for business. Poor absence management has a direct impact on your bottom-line revenue, and it has far-reaching effects that can quickly snowball. A manufacturing production line, for example, will be understaffed on shifts with unscheduled absences. This will put more pressure on the remainder of the workforce, who may already be working towards carefully calibrated targets. As a result of this added workload, the chances of them making mistakes will increase, along with the probability of lower-quality products coming off the line.

The end result isn’t just wasted labor and material on the faulty products. It directly translates into lost revenue as well as damage to your business credibility and brand value. If a faulty product ends up in the hands of a customer, you may even have a potential lawsuit on your hands. The same principles apply to support functions, such as building security, network safety, information security, and customer service.

While none of these generally contribute to direct revenue generation, they play important supporting roles. If operating with excessive absenteeism or presenteeism, they will be less productive, and more likely to cause problems.

What Is Absence Management In HR?

A very basic way to manage absences is to structure a set amount of paid time off to your workers. That means if they go AWOL, the compensation for the missed hours would be deducted from that period’s paycheck. However, this is a very rudimentary and singular approach, lacking both strategy and depth.

A strategic HR-developed absence management policy can help you avoid, or at least mitigate, the risk of these issues arising. The policy empowers your human resource function to discourage employees from going AWOL, as well as ensuring the available workforce isn’t stretched beyond its productive capacity as a result of employee absence.

It does so by creating an effective set of rules that focus not just on minimizing unscheduled time off, but ensuring the policy isn’t forcing employee presenteeism, which can often be just as harmful, if not worse than absenteeism. Both excessive absenteeism and presenteeism can turn out to be equally bad for business. If this sounds familiar to you, then it may be time to review and evaluate how well your policy works.

Addressing Presenteeism with Your Absence Management Policy

Employee presenteeism can often be just as bad as absenteeism. This refers to situations where employees still come into work while being obviously unwell or ill. Many would think this indicates a strong character and good work ethic on part of the worker. More often, it is simply a symptom that may indicate your absence management policies are unreasonably strict, and therefore counterproductive. Sick employees in the workplace usually aren’t there out of a sense of zeal, but out of a sense of fear. Specifically fear of losing their jobs or having deductions on their paycheck.

Consider the possible impact an employee with a contagious illness could have in the workplace. There will be a very good chance of the infection spreading to other workers and thereafter to their colleagues or families. Pretty soon, you have an outbreak among your workers including some of your best performers. In many cases, many of them will be forced to take time off, defeating the purpose of your absence management altogether. When devising policies that give due focus to presenteeism, ask yourself:

  • Whether sick workers can be expected to perform well?
  • Will sick workers be able to manage both their illness and their performance?
  • Will the illness impact a worker’s ability to focus and deliver consistent results?

If the answers to the questions are a solid “no”, you can understand why presenteeism is just as undesirable in the workplace as absenteeism.

Absence Management Best Practices

The specifics of good absence management will depend on your particular business. There can be a large number of factors at play, including your business model, your workforce morale, your compensation and benefits plans, and many other things. However, it is usually a good idea for employers to follow these practices for a sustainable absence management policy:

  • Leaders and managers set an example by being at work when well, and not advocating presenteeism themselves.
  • Encourage workers to understand when it is okay for them to come to work, as well as circumstances that are justifiable reasons for time off.
  • Not using disciplinary action as the first option and avoiding forcing presenteeism due to strict policies.


How to prevent my employees from abusing sick leave?

Create a policy that specifies how sick leave privileges can be used.

What is a sandwich leave policy?

A policy where employers count scheduled time off as well as absences adjacent to scheduled time off as absences.

What is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

The FMLA lays down rules where employers are bound to grant paid sick leaves to workers for themselves to care for their dependents.

What is the best HR tool for leave management?

Absence management software like E-Days and TimeTac have proven to be great tools for HR.

Why do good employees quit in almost every job?

When expectations aren’t met or when morale is low, including as a result of rigid absence management.

How can I improve my absence management?

Follow best practices among the most successful firms in your industry or niche.

How can managers control absence problems in an Organization?

A flexible and strategic absence management policy can help managers tackle absenteeism.

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