Habitual or chronic absence from work or other regular duties is defined as ‘absenteeism’. In most cases, it is an acceptable reason for breach of contract between the employer and the employee, since it violates the basic clause of the employee’s obligation to complete the assigned duties.
From the management’s point of view, absenteeism needs to be handled with a certain measure of consideration, depending upon the reasons causing it. In fact, the causes of absenteeism decide the course of action to be followed.
Culpable absenteeism is when the employee skips work and fails to give a reasonable justification for having done so.
Non-culpable absenteeism is when the employee skips work due to justified reasons (ill health, injury, etc.).
On the surface, culpable absenteeism can be likened to committing professional suicide. But it remains so only at the surface level. To take stringent action against an employee without investigating the reasons behind it can amount to negligence as well.
Lack of Interest in Work
Everyone needs a reason or a motivating factor to come to work. For some, it may be the money; for the moneyed ones, it could be the stimulating work environment; still others could have varied reasons. Whatever it may be, the lack of a motivating factor can be disillusioning enough for someone not to report to work, amounting to culpable absenteeism.
Disputes or Harassment at the Workplace
Disputes at work can be a source of great distress for anyone. If the constant bickering begins to intrude on to the person’s productivity, reporting to work won’t be seen as a viable option by him/her. Also, any form of bullying or sexual harassment can lead to culpable absenteeism if the employee, for reasons best known to him/her, chooses to stay away from work, rather than report it.
The devil-may-care attitude has ruined a lot of careers, and by all means, is an unpardonable offense. It is incorrect to assume that this problem is solely found in the younger lot of employees. Senior workers who begin to think of themselves as indispensable have also been known to skip work without providing reasons.
How is Culpable Absenteeism Handled?
When an employee takes an extended period of absence, or takes intermittent leaves from work, without any justified reason, the management has to seek an explanation for the same. In case the employee fails to provide answers, disciplinary action could be initiated by the company.
The nature of the disciplinary action for the absenteeism, will firstly depend on the company rule book. Other factors like the employee’s behavioral history, overall performance, previous achievements or reprimands (if any), duration of service, current circumstances, and the severity of the offense need to be taken into account. The company comes to a decision after analyzing these conditions, which may or may not result in termination of employment.
Non-culpable absenteeism is the toughest to manage, and to contain. The simplest way chosen by companies is to have a set of rules to be followed regarding permissible leave of absence. To be effective, these rules are to be conveyed to each employee, along with the consequences of refuting them. Rules regarding attendance must be reinforced, and slackness in this area should receive reprimands.
Non-culpable absenteeism can be a result of an illness, or an injury, or any grave issue that is communicated to the company by the employee. It is the company policy that dictates how each case should be considered.
How is Non-culpable Absenteeism Handled?
Communicate with the employee, with a view to understand the reason behind his/her absence. Reasons involving illnesses or injuries are justified, and need to be supported by medical documents. Other reasons caused by personal problems should be dealt with sensitivity, and the outcome should result from healthy discussions.
Absenteeism caused by health problems or disability should be carefully handled. Any waivers in attendance rules should be based on the medical reports provided by the employee, and opinions from healthcare professionals.
It is the company’s duty to ensure that the employees are given a healthy environment to work in. In case of any work-related hazards, precautions, and safety measures must be in place. The company should not, in any manner, contribute to absenteeism by providing work conditions that are below par and dangerous.
Tips to Curb Absenteeism
- Monitor employee attendance by maintaining a system (manual or electronic) where all employees have to sign in and sign out of work.
- Design a comprehensive leave policy that is in line with the company’s values and objectives.
- Encourage punctuality and attendance, and establish a reward system, if possible.
- Conduct regular health examinations to curb absenteeism due to illness.
- Introducing counseling sessions may prove beneficial in curbing absenteeism due to stress.
- Keep your staff motivated by creating a favorable work environment.
Absenteeism maybe difficult to deal with, in a forthright manner. But the management can come up with several rules and policies to keep it under check.