Managing Employee Absenteeism September 28 2015

 Absenteeism is one of the most significant and growing costs in Canadian workplaces. It is estimated that employee illness and disability cost Canadian employers $16.6 billion each year. In addition to direct costs, other costs must be considered; costs such as increasing pressure on existing staff, diminished productivity, and a decrease in the quality of service.

There are three types of absenteeism – culpable, non-culpable (innocent) and those in the “grey zone.”

Culpable absenteeism is a failure to report for work, despite being fit to do so.  This includes fraudulent use of leaves.  Where there is clear evidence that an employee’s absence is culpable, it should be managed through your organization’s policy on progressive discipline.

Non-culpable, or innocent, absenteeism is absence from work for legitimate reasons, such as illness or injury.  “Grey zone” absences are those which present themselves as legitimate, but the employer has reason to suspect its validity.  An example would be an employee regularly calling in sick on Fridays in the summer.  Grey zone absences should be treated in a similar way to non-culpable absences; unless, of course, proof of culpability becomes evident.

Neither non-culpable nor grey zone absences should be addressed using discipline. Doing so carries the risk of giving rise to claims of discriminatory employment practices, be it through the courts or the Human Rights Commission.

Addressing non-culpable and grey zone absences requires attendance management tools and programs, as well as skilled and dedicated management personnel. While there are wide varieties in the details of such programs, the consistent framework is the following;

  • Clearly state the objectives of the program
  • Develop and communicate an attendance policy
  • Establish targets or standards of acceptable attendance
  • Define “excessive absenteeism”
  • Assign line managers the responsibility for managing the attendance of their staff, using their discretion on attendance reviews and the timing of disciplinary action.
  • Develop modified work procedures for health-related absences emphasizing the resources available to improve attendance (e.g. EAP, LTD, flexible hours, tele-work, etc.)

There are a number of ways that Humaniqa can assist your organization in managing absenteeism. We offer several attendance management tools and templates, as well as supervisor training.