Absenteeism – What can you do?

Managing employees who are absent from the workplace due to an illness or injury can be difficult. However, if not managed properly, excessive absenteeism can create a significant cost for employers due to:

  • Reduced productivity,
  • Increased costs to cover ‘replacement’ employees, and
  • Impact on workplace morale and increased frustrations for those employees who have to “pick up the slack”.

While employers can face difficulties when managing and addressing absenteeism, there are steps that can be taken to try to improve the attendance of employees in the workplace:

Communicate Attendance Expectations

Ensure that all employees are made aware of attendance expectations and that they understand the effects that excessive absenteeism can have on the business.

Such information should be communicated to employees during their induction. This can be further supported and reinforced through communicating your employee handbook and leave policies.

Enforce Your Leave Policy

Make sure that you have a Leave Policy in place which clearly sets out the procedures that employees must follow if they are not fit to attend the workplace. This policy could be a specific Personal Leave Policy or it may form part of a broader Leave Policy.

Your Leave Policy should include a requirement for employees to:

  •  Directly contact their line manager via telephone to notify them of their absence
  • Contact their line manager within a specified time period.
  • Provide evidence of their illness (such as a medical certificate) to support the absence

Make sure that your employees are aware of what the consequences may be should they fail to comply with the requirements of the Policy, such as formal disciplinary action.

While as an employer you are limited regarding your ability to performance manage an employee for exercising a right to take personal leave or for periods of temporary absence due to injury or illness, you can commence disciplinary action where the employee:

  • Does not adhere to reasonable directions relating to the taking of personal leave; such as:

– Failing to comply with established notification requirements when taking a period of leave

– Failing to provide evidence of the requirement to take personal leave where requested

  • Takes a period of personal leave when an entitlement to do so did not exist (e.g. the employee took sick leave when they were not actually unfit for work due to illness or injury);
  • Does not cooperate with your efforts to meet your legal obligations in relation to managing work health and safety.

In such instances, you would need to be sure that you give the employee a chance to explain why they did not meet the requirements and that you give due consideration to their response.

If you do not already have such a policy in place, you can access a Leave Policy Template from our website on www.hradviceonline.com.au.

Follow Up Employee Absences

When an employee returns to work following a period of absence, follow up with the employee face to face to enquire about their well-being and to confirm whether they are fit to resume normal duties.

Undertaking this process will let the employee know that you are concerned about their well-being but that their absence has been noted.

This process can further assist with identifying whether there are any underlying problems that are contributing to the absenteeism as poor attendance can at times be a symptom of other issues, such as workplace conflict.

Discuss Concerns with the Employee

Where there are concerns regarding an employee’s absenteeism, such as where there is a pattern of absences, you can discuss these with the employee. During such a discussion, you can:

– Outline the pattern and frequency of the employee’s absences from the workplace over the course of their employment,

– Make it known to the employee that you are concerned about the frequency of their absences and want to know whether there is anything that you can do to help support them in the workplace.

– Where there is a pattern to the absences, ask the employee for an explanation as to why the absences mostly seem to occur on particular days.

– Advise the employee that for any future absences (excluding periods of pre-approved leave), they will need to provide evidence of the requirement to take personal leave.

– Be clear on what the required notification procedures are for absences.

Author Bio:  HR Advice Online, led by founders, authors and HR veterans Cheryl Disher and Kerrie Canning, responds to the needs of businesses with simple and easy to use HR and Work Health and Safety resources at an affordable monthly rate.  For less than a day’s HR consulting fees, you can receive a year’s support anytime, day or night.


Cathy works as a Paediatric Private Practice business coach.  Her lived private practice experience and management know how may be just what you and your business need.  Get in touch today and book your free 30 minute consult.