Employees are often the lifeblood of a small business. Competent and efficient employees help to keep your business running smoothly. And when an employee engages in a pattern of absenteeism, such absences can directly affect your bottom line.
Tracking and monitoring employee absences is one of the keys to managing absenteeism in your business. Keeping on top of employee absence patterns not only helps your business run more smoothly, but also can act as an early alert system so you can tackle chronic absenteeism issues before they become a major problem.
There are a multitude of reasons an employee might be absent, including (but certainly not limited to) any of the following:
- Sudden illness, such as the flu
- Chronic illnesses
- Family or personal emergencies
- Childcare issues
- Scheduled appointments
Often, an employee's absence can't be helped. Life happens, as the saying goes, and an employee who wakes up with the flu shouldn't be expected to drag themselves in to work that day. On the other hand, an employee may not show up for work because they have a scheduled appointment, but perhaps that appointment is a job interview with another firm.
Because each business has a different view as to which reasons for being absent are legitimate and which reasons are not, it's important that your employee absence tracking system include a clear statement of your employee absence policy. However, this policy should still respect the privacy of the employee when it comes to life outside of work.
Employee absence policy
Your employee absence policy ideally will outline a number of employee absence rules. For example, a comprehensive employee absence plan should make your employees aware of the following absence-related rules and policies:
- What constitutes an absence. There are different types of absences, and the terminology you can use is flexible. For example, while your employees may be able to take approved paid and/or unpaid absences, if they fail to show up for work without calling first, your policy may state that such unexcused absences not only will be unpaid but also may be subject to disciplinary action.
- How employee absences are tracked. Your policy may outline the type of employee absence tracker your business uses. There are a multitude of ways employee attendance and absences can be tracked. Whether it's through manual entry into a spreadsheet or a system such as the use of time cards, employees should be made aware that a system is in place to track their attendance and absences.
- How to get an absence approved. Whether an employee is seeking a leave of absence, or needs to have a day off work for a scheduled appointment, your policy should provide clear details outlining the steps the employee needs to take to get their scheduled absence approved.
- What kind of disciplinary action might be used, and when. Being clear about the consequences of unexcused absences can be a helpful deterrent when it comes to managing employee absenteeism. If you have a system in place by which you send a warning to employees for unauthorized absences, explain how this system works, along with the consequences of receiving such warnings.
Ideally, you should present employees with your employee absence policy as part of their employment agreement. Whether it's attached to the agreement as a schedule, or you refer to the policy in the document, it's also a good idea to have employees either initial the attached policy—or the section of the agreement that refers to the policy—to affirm that they have read it and agree to its terms.
The employee absence form
When an employee knows in advance that they will need time off, whether it's for half a day or a full week's leave, having an absence request procedure in place makes your employee absence tracking system run more efficiently.
While employee absence requests can be as simple as having your employees check with their direct supervisors about upcoming absences, using an employee absence form will streamline your record keeping, as well as making your system more efficient.
The form you use may be an employee absence request form, which your employees fill out and submit for approval, or it may be a form you require management to fill out to record individual employees' absences. In either case, some common elements in such forms include:
- Employee's name and employee ID number, if applicable
- Supervisor or manager's name
- Date or dates on which the employee expects to be absent
- Type of absence requested, as described in your employee absence policy (such as vacation, sick leave, bereavement, or unpaid personal days)
- Reason(s) for the absence, if not already covered above
Additionally, the form should include space to specify whether or not the absence has been approved or not, and by whom. Using an employee absence form not only provides employees with an established system to request absences, but also it enables you to accurately and efficiently track absence-related data.
While employee absences are inevitable in the running of any small business, properly tracking employee attendance and having a clear absence request system can help you stay on top of any potential absenteeism issues and keep your business running efficiently.