Absenteeism – It isn’t always what it seems

Posted: 7th January 2019

Absenteeism – It isn’t always what it seems

I am frequently asked by clients how to deal with the absenteeism of one or more of their members of staff. The answer of how to get an employee back to work will depend very much on the cause. For example, it could be a genuine case of sickness (perhaps caused by a disability or an, as yet, undeclared pregnancy); lack of motivation; having a hang-over from overindulging the night before; being bullied; feeling anxious because of overwork or impossible deadlines; feeling unable to cope because of lack of training; the illness of a family member or indeed bereavement; pretending to be ill so that the employee can take time off to work for another employer or go to a job interview. And a very common one is being signed of sick “with stress” the moment the employee is told that he/she is subject to performance management procedures!

The list is quite long, but the action you need to take as an employer will depend entirely on the underlying cause – and that will not necessarily be the one you are presented with. Sometimes an employee may say that they are ill with a cold or stomach bug or backache, when in fact they need time off to look after a dependant because they may not know that they have a right to time off to look after dependants in an emergency. A full and careful investigation should happen after every absence – however short – to establish the issues and to see if there are any reasonable adjustments the employer can make to ensure that the employee stays in work. This might be as simple as making changes to the employee’s start time or working hours for a short period to help them deal with a crisis.

But a lot of these issues can be solved by making the employee want to come to work in the first place. Make it a welcoming place to be; make the employees feel like they are being treated with dignity and respect rather than just numbers in a spreadsheet; train them and give them the resources to do their jobs; and give them feedback on their performance and praise where it is due; show them how their work contributes to the success of the organisation. If you invest time in your employees, they will become your biggest assets – rather than your greatest liabilities!

If you want help to be proactive in solving your absenteeism problems please get in touch.