Employees and Frequent Absences

Legal Zoom reports that 15 percent of payroll costs are time off- and disability-related.
Legal Zoom reports that 15 percent of payroll costs are time off- and disability-related. (Image: Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images)

Organizations face a variety of issues with employees. Absenteeism is an age-old problem in the workplace, and it impacts all industries. Excessive absenteeism can cause decreased productivity, decreased client satisfaction and decreased morale among employees. To combat this issue, organizations must handle excessive absenteeism effectively yet cautiously, obeying all federal and state labor laws.


If employers have an absenteeism policy in place, employees have a clear understanding of the organization's expectations. The University of California Berkeley Library's absentee policy is clear. The policy defines terms, states the types of absences that are subject to disciplinary action, states the types of absences that are not subject to disciplinary action, states the nature of disciplinary actions and lists attendance management tools.

Employee's History

The employee's history should be taken into consideration in determining whether the absences are because of illness, carelessness or a serious problem the employee is dealing with. Wake Forest University reports that frequent absenteeism may be a sign of personal or behavioral problems. The employee could be dealing with a serious domestic problem that the employer is not aware of, or he may have a serious mental or physical illness that he has not revealed to his employer. If an employee has worked for the organization for 15 years and has never had a problem with absenteeism until recently, the organization should consider the possibility of a personal problem.

FMLA and Labor Laws

According to Legal Zoom, you must consider the Family and Medical Leave Act and all other labor laws prior to taking action against an employee for frequent absenteeism. Each situation is different, and if you are unaware of how these laws apply to a specific situation, you should seek legal advice or advice from your human resources department.

Employee Counseling

Many organizations counsel employees prior to taking disciplinary action. In counseling, the employee has the opportunity to provide a reason for the absences. The employer also has the opportunity to inform the employee of actions that will occur if the excessive absences continue.

Disciplinary Action

If the absences continue and the organization counsels the employee and seeks advice ensuring it is not violating labor laws, disciplinary action is inevitable. The Berkeley Library states that its employees may receive any of the following disciplinary actions because of excessive absences: an oral reprimand, a letter of warning, a final letter of warning leading to suspension or dismissal.

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