10 February 2017

Attendance Policy and Absence Management

Attendance Policy Fundamentals

At its most basic absence management helps keep costs down and productivity high, however there are more dimensions to consider. A good attendance policy helps reduce time-consuming administrative tasks as well as helping all employees comply with the law. Having a central system for managing holiday time, time off through ill health and clock-on/clock-off clearly makes sense.

Beyond these basics, a good attendance policy will help minimize disruption from unscheduled absenteeism. We all know that in a perfect world everyone would tune up on time, work productively and leave on time. The world isn't perfect and we need a combination of both corporate policies and fair practices to help the workplace run smoothly.

Considerations when creating an effective employee attendance policy.

The objective of a well documented attendance policy is to ensure the smooth running of the working environment and make life more enjoyable for everyone. To achieve this effective policies need to cover what might seem to be basic issues that occur under a variety of different circumstances. For example, on the face of it acceptable reasons for being absent from work seems a reasonably straightforward topic. However, according to Human Resource Management (by Derek Torrington, Stephen Taylor and Laura Hall) one wants an attendance policy that is robust enough that it allows employers to take action against employees with unauthorised absence, while protecting an otherwise well performing employee who is infrequently absent.

​Some aspects of attendance policy implementation

1.Multiple policies
Different departments may need different attendance policies (to allow for differing shift work, for example).

2. Morale
Some organisations reward employees with good attendance records, as a way of improving morale. This is less common nowadays, as it's recognised that ill health can strike anyone at any time and more enlightened employers acknowledge that there is little to be gained by having ill people at work. 

3. Relationship with unemployment compensation
Effective policies are those that are reasonable, logical and uniformly applied. Given that this is the case, they can be relied on by both employer and employee should the company need to make redundancies.

4. Disabilities and attendance
A good source of information with respect to disabilities is the Handbook of Work Disability: Prevention and Management (by Patrick Loisel and Johannes R Anema). A reasonable, uniformly enforced and well-written attendance policy helps employees whose disabilities prevents regular, consistent attendance. It sets out how reasonable employers should respond and work with the employee to plan for employee absence, where possible.

5. Employee work hours
Many employers are moving away from fixed office hours nowadays – particularly knowledge based jobs, such as those in the technology sectors. Clearly, where start/stop times are important, they need to be specified. As societies become increasing multicultural there is a growing requirement for attendance policies to be sensitive to and very clear with regard to religious leave. This will normally be specified in the holiday section and the policy needs to clearly lay out the procedure for requesting leave (deadlines, blackout periods, etc). You can read more about this in Religion, Work and Inequality (by Lisa A Keister, Roger Finke, and John McCarthy).

In summary, managing absence is wider than deciding what to do about those who don't turn up to work (or are consistently late). To manage all the issues surrounding absence one needs to address a range of issues, such as job design, employment relations, and working patterns, which we'll look at in other blog posts. 

Minimising Staff Turnover
The ABC of Employee Engagement: the basis to greater success as an organisation.