What is Absence Management?

Absence management is the process of identifying and fixing employee absenteeism trends and causes in the workplace. It is aimed at reducing unplanned or excessive employee absences in an organization through well-crafted time-off policies, interventions from managers, positive workplace culture, effective communication, mental health programs and so on.

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Types of Absence

Before going to the inside of how and what is a good Absence Management, it becomes imperative to know the different absences so they can be dealt with accordingly. The different types of absences fall under two categories, planned and unplanned. 

Planned Absence

A planned absence is informed prior, gotten approved by the management, and mostly does not hinder the productivity of the team. Planned absences include vacation, marriage, parental leave, etc., 

Unplanned Absence 

An unplanned absence is something that comes up without prior notice, for which the employee has to make themselves unavailable at work. This may include sickness, medical emergencies, accidents, deaths or any other personal commitment. 

Unplanned absence is unavoidable in any organization and controlling it would become a violation of employee rights. However, the employee and the organization have to balance the number of days taken as unplanned leave to ensure it does not create dependencies and dent productivity.

The above two types of absences are mostly compliant with the employer’s rules and policies. The concept of Absence Management majorly kicks in for this below kind of absence. 

Long Duration of Absences

A different absence that definitely requires intervention is Long Time Absenteeism. In this category, the employee goes AWOL with no notice for long periods of time and project concern for the organization. Continuous absenteeism or irregularity in appearing to work become major places where implementing Employee Absence Management becomes necessary. 

Absence Management Policy and Procedure

The first step to take when implementing Absence Management in your organization is by setting up a policy that lies down all the guidelines and clauses that would be part of the Employee Absence Management procedure. With a proper policy in place, it becomes easy for the employees, managers and HR folks to handle any kind of situation that may arise. 

The major focus of your policy must be to reduce excessive leaves and unplanned take-offs to increase the financial benefits of your organization.  An ADP survey shows that employee absenteeism directly affects productivity, profitability and operational costs of an organization. Unnoticed absenteeism can pile work on the employees showing up to the office. It can create dependencies for them and decrease their productivity as well.

The major points to include in an Absence Management policy are: 

One of the foremost things that have to be cleared up in your Employee Absence Management policy is the different reasons and situations that are considered normal and excessive absenteeism. 

For example, accidents or injuries or sickness are reasons unavoidable for an employee where they have to take a long period of absence. With proper medical proof, submission employees must be let to take this absence. The policy should list the different scenarios like this where employees can submit proof for their absence to feel non- threatened by the policy. 

Once the situations that are okay are listed, flip the coin to list the situations or reasons that are condemned for absence. 

For example, continuous absences in a pattern like every Friday or Monday with no proper explanation can be condemned and mentioned in the policy as behaviors that are not approved by the organization. 

Once you have listed down the situations, the next step is explaining the disciplinary actions that would be taken on absenteeism and the steps to request a long absence from work. 

The second important step in your Absence Management policy is to list the exact actions required from the employees before they take leave and the exact actions employers will take when employees take excessive absences. 

For example, 

When an employee goes on long absence from work without notice or is constantly irregular in showing to work, some below actions are common and can be part of the policy to ensure you take them, 


As much as it is important to communicate to your employees that absenteeism is not tolerable in your workplace, it is equally important to tell them to take time off occasionally in the policy to ensure you do not threaten your employees and create a toxic work culture. 

While your policy speaks about approved reasons for absence, actions on absence and requirements, etc., make sure it also touches base with the fact that employees can very well use their time off to get breaks from work. If you do not say it enough, it might lead to toxic presenteeism which can again hinder the productivity of your employees. 

Another important factor to include in your Employee Absence Management policy is EAP or Employee Assistance Programs. No employee will make themselves absent knowing full well that they have consequences if not for a reason. It can be personal problems like financial trouble, caretaking duties, family disputes, depression, bad relationships, lack of recognition at work, unworthy assignments, commute issues, colleague problems, etc., 

With an active EAP program in place, it gives employees the opportunity to talk to someone professional about their problems and communicate it to their Managers. This way your employees feel they can talk about their problems in their workplace and find solutions. This will help in reducing absenteeism and also improve the overall culture of the company. 

Effects of wrong Absence Management

Absence Management does not end with planning the policy and communicating it to the employees, it requires constant checks and consistency to maintain and improve the Employee Absence Management in your company. But before we get into the depths of how to implement it in action, it becomes necessary to see what not to do as part of the process. Absence management is like walking the glass, too much pressure on the employees might lead to bad practices and culture, and not implementing it all would dig a hole in your company’s productivity. Poor absence management accounts for 22.1% of an organization's payroll. In some cases, you might also land up in legal trouble. Data shows that over 1250 class-actions lawsuits were filed in the U.S alone as a result of time-and-wage-related discrepancies. 

So, let’s see what are some effects that might come out with wrong Absence Management practices. 

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1. Decrease in Productivity

Absence Management is to reduce excessive leaves, not stop leaves overall. Often with wrong Absence Management methods, the latter becomes the common practice in companies. Unplanned absences lead to as much as 20% decrease in productivity. As a result, you get overworked employees who are not productive because of a lack of rest and break from work. 

2. Emotional Stress 

If the culture becomes so, that taking absence itself is frowned upon, employees who have genuine needs to attend to would not take absence and cause themselves emotional stress. With personal commitment left hanging and little concentration at work, employees would suffer emotionally unable to do anything to the fullest. 

3. Lack of Trust in the Organization 

Absence Management has to be used like salt at the right quantity. Too much enforcement of the same would cause a general mistrust among employees and managers. Even though employees take absence for genuine reasons, an air of doubt would prevail causing loss of trust among employees. 

4. Toxic Culture Patterns 

With everyone concerned about their absences, people would no longer be open about their lives. Open communication among employees between employees and managers would hinder the culture of the company and make it toxic. 

5. Lack of Work-life Balance

Employees with a constant need to be present in the workplace would lose work-life balance, which can take a toll on their personal life. As per a recent survey, it was found that 54% of employees in the U.S do not use all their tme-off days resulting in disappointed and angry employees. 

6. Employee Churn

Rigid workplace means a rigid life. This means angry employees meaning high employee turn over rate. If you do not address wrong employee absence management practices sooner and leave it to become a culture to stay, the ultimate effect would be employee churn. More and more employees would quit your organization and cause a lack of resources and a lack of reputation for your company. Your company’s recruitment rates would also come down if word spreads around that the absence management procedure is not employee-friendly. 

How to improve your Absence Management

Now that we know the deeply concerning effects of wrong employee absence management, it is time to see how you can improve your absence management practices to ensure a good culture and reduced absenteeism at the same time. 

Improve absence management by providing employee wellbeing in your organization. Give employees a reason to like work and miss less of it. Employee wellbeing can include in-house counselors, weekly catch-ups with their managers to discuss their performances. This will help them establish their goals, and understand their role and its value in the company's growth.

Every employee would feel comfortable coming to a workplace that gives them incentives and benefits. Not only would they find these benefits useful, but the thought put into by the organization would also largely influence the employees reducing absenteeism. 

To know more about the different benefits you can provide to your employees and how it will benefit them, read this blog.

Another important goal should be to make your employees enjoy the workplace that they daily come to. Make the workplace a lively one by adding innovative interiors, enjoyable places, separate spots to work with focus, games, etc., Making the environment enjoyable can reduce absenteeism. 

Engage with your employees to make them feel important and recognized in the company. Conduct employee engagement activities and include them in all major company-wide decisions making meetings. Have frequent reviews and one-on-one discussions to understand where the employees are coming from. Make them feel heard. 

Hands down, the best way to improve employee absence management is by providing flexibility. When an employee has the freedom to come in a little late or leave early from work to take up a doctor’s appointment or attend his child’s school play, he/she will not miss work.,. they will step in at a convenient time and get work done. Being too stringent would mess up with your employee’s personal life, leaving them frustrated. Give them space and trust them to get their work done.

If your company provides enough days off to satisfy all your employees’ needs in life like vacation, sick days and personal time, the need to practice excessive absenteeism would become unnecessary. Abide by all guidelines of employee rules and provide an empathetic number of days as time off to avoid absenteeism. 

One way to reduce absenteeism is by rewarding employees who are present. This would motivate employees to come to work. When you see an employee putting those extra hours of work to get things done, appreciate and recognize it. Not only does this make the employee feel recognized and motivated, but it also motivates other employees to put in extra hours when the need arises.

Sometimes an employee might be unaware of the fact that they are using too many leaves or taking too much time from work. This happens when your HR team records all information on absences in sheets and has the information to themselves. With good absence management software in place, your employees can track their time off and absence pattern and be conscious of their absences reducing excessive absenteeism. 

Have you implemented an absence management policy and followed it for a period? The best way to see if it worked and to improve the program is to evaluate it. See if the program had made an impact and reduced absenteeism. If yes, emphasize on the efforts you put, continue in the path. If not, see what went wrong and correct the program to ensure effectiveness. 

Why is absence management important?

We know what is absence management, the different types of absences, how to plan absence management policy, the effects of having wrong employee absence management in place, and how to improve the absence management process in your company. The bigger question before implementing whatever you have read so far is to know why it is important to implement and practice employee absence management at all. 

Only when the importance is clear, it will become easy and effective to use all the other points. So here is a quick list of everything you need to know about the importance of absence management: 

With proper employee absence management in place, companies can identify the absence pattern present in their organization and take early measures to prevent them or fix them. If it is a sickness pattern or lack of motivation or a problem with the team’s manager, it can be identified proactively and solved. 

A transparent absence management system can reduce confusion and also remove prejudices around absenteeism, improving the overall culture of the organization. Employees would be open to calling sick and also planning leaves with their team, improving team bonding and teamwork. 

Absence management makes it mandatory for employees and employers to talk to one another and discuss the work and personal life of the employees. It improves communication between leaders and employees. Open communication removes lying and as a result emotional stress among employees. 

An open employee absence management system gives everyone in the company the details of the duration of the absence of an employee with valid reasons eliminating doubt and deception among peers and management. Openness removes all mistrust among employees.

With absence management, it becomes easier to identify an employee who is taking excessive absences and thus makes it easy for the company to take timely action. Either schedule a getting back to work interview or take disciplinary action or reduce salary paid. All these processes happen automatically, without confusion. 

The lesser the absenteeism among employees, the more productivity in your organization. One of the age-old benefits of having an absence management policy in place is that it can increase productivity in your organization. 

With an increase in productivity, profitability will increase as well, making the importance of absence management a lot clear to everyone.

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