Absenteeism is an indicator of low employee morale. Employees who are no longer fully engaged in their jobs also tend to take time off, sometimes to the extent that it affects performance productivity. Critical steps for managers are recognizing changes in attendance patterns and addressing absenteeism as soon as practicable to determine the cause and find a solution.
Gather workplace policies, standard operation procedures, an employee handbook and applicable collective bargaining agreements or labor union contracts. Highlight workplace policies concerning attendance. Assemble the necessary discipline review forms if the employee’s absenteeism is enough of a problem that it deserves a written warning.
Conduct an extensive review of the employee’s personnel file. Read the entire file, focusing on documents such as his manager's informal feedback, performance appraisals, peer evaluations and disciplinary or corrective action records. Ensure the employee received all policies related to employee attendance – there should be a signed acknowledgment form for all workplace policies. Review the employee’s attendance records for any patterns related to her absenteeism and tardiness.
Visit with the compensation and benefits specialist to determine if the employee has filed any claims for leave of absence, intermittent leave or any other arrangements for absence due to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provisions. It’s important to double-check employee medical files. An employee may mistakenly believe he was approved for intermittent leave and that his absences are protected by FMLA regulations.
Meet face-to-face with the employee near the end of the work week. Inform her that you want to address her absenteeism, how absenteeism affects performance and ways to improve. Conduct the meeting in a conference room away from the immediate workspace to avoid disruptions or interruptions. Provide the employee with a copy of all written policies related to attendance, including progressive discipline policy steps and her attendance record for the most recent evaluation period.
Encourage a two-way dialogue so the employee gains an understanding of how important attendance is to the organization as well as the employee’s coworkers. Ask if there are ways you can help the employee improve attendance such as suggestions for better time management or a more flexible schedule. Look for ways to preserve the employer-employee relationship; give the employee the benefit of the doubt even if you suspect low morale is the reason for her absences. In this case, be open to a candid discussion and employee input on how to raise workplace morale.
Refrain from assuming the employee’s absenteeism is completely unavoidable – there could be a reasonable explanation for the absenteeism which may be resolved by alternative or flexible scheduling. Unless you are the company’s designated privacy officer, refrain from all conversation about any medical information, leaves of absence or specific health conditions. If the employee absences are due to FMLA leave or medical issues, he should initiate that conversation. Nevertheless, be prepared to give him general information about FMLA leave in the event his absences can be covered under the law.
Recommend to the employee that he establish a personal goal related to his attendance. Document the mutually agreed upon goal, place a copy in the employee’s personnel file and provide the employee with a copy of the signed agreement.