absence management

What is Absence Management?

“What is absence management, and how exactly does it help my team reduce absenteeism?”

If you find yourself asking this question, it’s worth exploring how you manage your team when they’re not in the office or on the clock. These unplanned absences where employees miss work due to illness or injury are known as absenteeism.

This may seem counterintuitive, but absenteeism costs U.S. employers about $225 billion annually. In the European Union, this number more than doubles to $470 billion annually.

This guide will explore absenteeism and the consequences of poor absence management. Let’s get started!

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What is absence management?

Absence management is the process of minimizing employee absenteeism with strategic policies and procedures.

These unplanned absences are particularly challenging for businesses. If an employee calls in sick a half hour before the shift begins, management will need to shuffle team members around to cover the work.

In many cases, companies cannot fully cover missed shifts, leaving gaps that result in poor customer service or a diminished quality of work. If the shirt occurs regularly, co-worker morale can also falter.

Absence management seeks to solve the issue of employee absenteeism through programs and procedures that minimize workforce disruption and increase productivity.

Absence management requires striking a balance between supporting employees who miss work because of illness or injury and disciplining employees who miss too much work.

Typically, companies manage employee absences through specific policies and procedures. If you’re unsure about creating a policy for your team, there are a few key factors to consider.

Why should companies create an absence management program?

With a proper absence management system and adequate planning, companies can avoid staffing gaps during working hours and guarantee project completion.

Human resource departments can then use absence data and management methods to reduce absenteeism — especially the number of unplanned absences.

While companies can do little to prevent employees from becoming ill, they can manage absences. According to CCH, more than 60 percent of unplanned absences occur for reasons other than sickness.

Studies also show that wellness initiatives can increase productivity in the workplace too. By improving internal policies, businesses can improve productivity, morale, safety, and customer experience by effectively managing absences.

Of course, you can’t do this without developing policies and procedures. Utilizing workforce analytics and automating absence tracking is also part of a solid absence management strategy.

How can companies create or improve existing absence management programs?

One major way companies can create a strong absence management program is through clear and honest communication.

Often, companies share time-off request policies with employees when they begin their employment. They also repeat the guidelines as part of new employee orientation or onboarding.

While trying to stress the policy's positive aspects, companies should also make employees aware that absenteeism sometimes leads to disciplinary action.

Declining morale can lead to decreased productivity for the entire team. In some cases, short staffing can also lead to more work-related accidents.

scheduling dashboard in Hubstaff

Reducing employee absenteeism can increase morale and improve profitability– making absence management important for businesses to master.

What are the different types of absences?

Employees miss work for various reasons. That’s why there’s a need for many types of leave in the workplace.

While absenteeism is frustrating, that does not diminish the importance of time off. Time off from work is essential in preventing burnout and other health issues.

The World Health Organization found that long hours contributed to a 35% increase in the risk of stroke and a 17% higher risk of heart disease.

Time off also improves decision-making and can enhance creativity. Typical types of absences include authorized leave, short-term leave, long-term leave, parental leave, and emergency leave.

Authorized leave

Authorized leave is annual leave that includes holidays and, at some companies, even sabbaticals. It might also include time off for public duties such as jury duty or military reserve obligations.

Although authorized leave is essential for an employee’s well-being, many employees fail to take all their official leave.

Authorized leave is generally paid, but a policy manual or employment contract should specify the amount of leave each employee receives.

Short-term leave

A short-term absence might include time off for short-term illnesses like colds or stomach viruses. It can include bereavement leave (also known as compassionate leave) for the death of a close relative.

Short-term leave also may include time off for doctor appointments or wellness screenings. Companies typically allow some paid short-term leave.

Long-term leave

Long-term leave is usually a form of extended sick leave. It can also be used for severe injuries or surgeries. Often, this is called a leave of absence or a sabbatical.

Depending on the company policy and local laws, long-term leave may be paid or unpaid.

Parental and family leave

Companies provide parental leave to new parents after the birth or adoption of a child. Some companies may also grant parental leave for child-related issues.

parental and family leave stats

Some countries mandate a minimum amount of parental leave. Under the U.S. Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employers must provide employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to care for family members.

Depending upon local laws and company policies, employees may receive pay for some or all of their family leave.

Emergency leave

Emergency leave occurs when an accident or other emergency requires a team member to leave or miss work.

Emergency leave is not a mandate in the U.S. Companies that provide emergency leave can make policies regarding eligibility, length of leave, and whether it is paid or unpaid.

What are absence management policies?

Attendance management policies list the acceptable reasons for missing work, how often an employee can miss work, and what they should do to request time off.

Specifically, policies might include:

  • The quantity of authorized leave. This should include specifications regarding whether days accumulate and carry over if unused or if the employee loses them.

  • Parental leave policies. Do male and female employees receive the same parental leave days? Under what circumstances are days granted?

  • Compassionate leave policies. This should clearly specify how the leave is quantified and which family members the policy applies to.

  • Procedures for requesting authorized and unplanned leave. You’ll need forms and processes in place to request leave that is not clearly specified.

  • Return to work procedures after an illness or injury. Your leave policy also needs to outline proper protocol for returning to work.

  • Policies regarding long-term absence for an injury or illness. How do employees request it, and do they receive any pay during that time?

Employee engagement is critical to effective absence management. HR managers should involve employees in establishing or revamping policies to encourage employee buy-in.

Absence management best practices

In top-performing organizations, absence management methods are part of an overall company management strategy. Other components of that strategy will include training managers to build trust with employees.

This trust leads to more engaged employees that tend to have fewer absences.

An overall company wellness program can also improve absenteeism rates. Successful wellness programs encourage employees to exercise regularly, quit smoking, make healthy meals, and wash hands frequently. Some even include financial incentives for meeting these wellness goals.

The following employee perks, training, and policy updates can further help business leaders boost their absence management efforts.

Create a return-to-work process

A return-to-work process establishes what employees need to do when they feel ready to return to work after a leave period. For example, a company might specify that employees must follow a return-to-work policy if they've been out for more than three to five days.

Typically, the policy will outline employees' steps to return to work. Employees may be required to provide doctor’s notes or sign updated agreements to resume machine operation.

The employer might also need to provide accommodations to the employee. Examples include providing a chair with arms, lighter initial duties, or a phased-in return to full-time employment.

These policies may also refer employees to an Employee Assistance Program. You’d likely see this when an employee is dealing with mental illness, a family crisis, or a debilitating disease.

Offer remote work options

Businesses can institute policies to give employees more flexibility in their work. Often the flexibility can prevent absences and burnout.

Remote working policies would specify which types of jobs are eligible for remote work. They should also detail the procedure for gaining approval to work remotely and how managers will measure performance for remote employees.

It also will determine what remote work software and equipment the company would provide vs. what the employee provides.

Allow for flexible scheduling

Flexible hours can also prevent absenteeism and improve employee engagement. When employees have more flexibility to balance home and work responsibilities, they’re less likely to miss work.

A fully developed absence management policy will include information about flexible work, proof of work, and performance expectations.

Provide policy training for management

For absence management strategies to be effective, managers need to understand the policies and how to implement them.

If they’re responsible for reducing absenteeism, they’ll need to know how to balance employees’ individual needs with company needs.

Labor laws sometimes require that management treat all employees in similar situations identically. Certain regulations will also require specific record-keeping. Management training should include all these compliance requirements.

Encourage work-life balance

In the United Kingdom, the average worker uses only 62 percent of their annual leave. In the United States, the average worker used about 67 percent of their annual leave in 2021.

Taking breaks improves decision-making, mental health, and overall health. How can we encourage taking breaks and using time off from work wisely? By setting a good example.

Managers can set a good wellness example for employees by using all of their leave. It is also crucial not to punish team members for taking necessary or optional breaks from work — as long as it doesn’t disrupt their team or projects.

Use an absence management software

Hubstaff absence management dashboard

An absence management policy is only effective if management can successfully implement and monitor it. Unfortunately, 42 percent of U.S. companies said they lacked the staff to manage employee absenteeism effectively.

Absence management software can automate the process. This way, absenteeism management won’t require additional administrative work.

Workforce management software can automatically manage employee time-off requests. It also tracks when an employee fails to show up for a shift, shows up late, or leaves early.

The best part? This data helps managers spot attendance trends and intervene before the problem gets out of hand.

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Using absence management in your business

It’s important to note that absence management needs to be part of an overall workforce management strategy. This way, you can find preventative opportunities to enhance your work environment and eliminate conditions that lead to absenteeism.

These changes might include a more flexible working environment that emphasizes remote or hybrid work. Or use flexible hours to combat disengagement, burnout, and poor work-life balance.

One of the significant challenges in implementing an absence management strategy is properly tracking employee attendance.

Fortunately, Hubstaff provides powerful software with employee time tracking, proof of work, and absence management features. Request a demo or sign up for a 14-day free trial today.

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