Dealing with Chronic Absenteeism in Your Workplace

Dr. Ryan Giffen

Operating a workforce of any size can come with a wide array of challenges, with one of these being scheduling and punctuality. Tardiness or absenteeism, if not curbed, can become a far too often occurrence. It can go from once in a while to weekly or monthly in the blink of an eye. Although, there are methods to help resolve chronic absenteeism.

Handling Chronic Absenteeism

Differentiate chronic absenteeism over other types of occurrences. It is frequently not showing up to work without a valid reason or cause. It is different from an occasional absence or tardiness due to car trouble, sickness, or other factors. We have all seen or worked with the employee who will consistently show up late or call in with some excuse. These are chronic absentee cases.

The most important factor in addressing chronic absenteeism is to jump on it rapidly. It can become difficult to change the behavior the longer it has been going on, especially if it is multiple team members. If this behavior continues on for some time, other employees may begin to think that it is acceptable.

Creating and Distributing an Attendance Policy

The first step is for Human Resources to create a clear and understandable attendance policy for employees. When it comes to an attendance policy, it should be very straightforward and not really delve into various types of exceptions. The policy should accentuate the primary point of showing up on time for your scheduled position. It can also include elaboration on calling in for sickness or emergencies. Make the potential disciplinary actions for tardiness or absenteeism clear for employees. Layout the various types of absence, whether lateness, no call no show, scheduled absence, shift replacement, and others. Then, show this policy to every employee, both old and new. To be even more thorough, have each employee sign that they have read and understood the policy. This eliminates the possibility of pleading ignorance of the absenteeism policy as an excuse.

Enforcing the Policy

Once a concrete attendance policy is in place, it must be consistently enforced. If an employee is still being chronically absent, follow the policy and use disciplinary action. The more leeway and exceptions, the weaker the policy becomes for every employee. This is not to say that there can’t be any wiggle room or empathy for certain unscheduled absences. There are going to be understandable emergencies or incidents, but preventable tardiness or absence should be addressed appropriately. Some businesses may be afraid to take it as far as termination, but this may be necessary in some cases. An employee may be a great asset when they are actually present, but if being present is an issue, a better candidate can fill the role. 

Tracking Employee Absences

Along with the policy comes the importance of proper documentation of employee attendance. Without taking note of various absences, it will likely be difficult to keep track of developing patterns. This also covers liability for the business if an employee needs to be terminated due to frequent absence. The business will have clear records to defend themselves in the event of a wrongful termination suit.

The Value of Rewarding Good Attendance

Just as poor attendance should be disciplined, good attendance should be rewarded. Ensure to praise and incentivize employees that are keeping in line with the policy. It could be giving them an extra day off once in a while or some other type of reward. Not only will this keep employees in high spirits about their performance, but it will likely make other employees want to follow suit. 

About Dr. Ryan Giffen

With over 20 years of experience, Dr. Ryan Giffen is an expert in human relations and business culture. His career began in hospitality, leading operations and human resource departments for Fortune 500 companies and the like. Not long after, Ryan found his passion for teaching and consulting. He earned a Ph.D. in Hospitality Management with a Human Resources focus from Iowa State University and now works as an assistant professor at California State University, Long Beach. For over a decade, he continues to research and speak on organizational culture, relationship intelligence, and leadership effectiveness. Ryan is also the founder of Inospire, a company helping bosses and employees build stronger relationships with one another.  Lastly, Dr. Giffen is producer and host of the Corporate Shadow Podcast. a show helping everyday employees overcome workplace nonsense.