A Publication of WTVP

Is absenteeism an issue in your organization? Did you know that the typical organization’s second-highest expense after payroll is the total cost of employee absences? In a 2005 study conducted by Circadian Technologies, “Absenteeism: The Bottom- Line Killer,” unscheduled absenteeism costs U.S. employers $3,600 per hourly employee and $2,650 per salaried employee annually. And with winter just around the corner, now may be a good time to take a closer look at improving your absentee rates.

Excessive absenteeism is an issue which many employers confront in the workplace. In order to properly address excessive absenteeism, employers must first become familiar with the laws protecting employee leave. From a federal perspective, these laws include the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Illinois’ state laws include the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act, the Employee Blood Donation Leave Act, the Illinois Family Military Leave Act, the Illinois School Visitation Rights Act, and Illinois’ Workers’ Compensation Act.

It is a good idea to have a written policy in place explaining employee rights and responsibilities regarding leaves of absence. Companies should consider developing a formal policy regarding family and medical leaves, disability leaves, military service leaves, union-related leaves, voting and jury duty leaves, bereavement leaves, and workers’ compensation leaves, in addition to paid holidays, paid sick time, and vacation time. Some of these leaves are subject to federal and state requirements which must be integrated into the policy, while others are purely voluntary categories of leave that may be offered at the employer’s discretion. Many employers implement a comprehensive policy addressing many different types of leaves; others develop separate policies for each type.

What can you do to more effectively manage absenteeism? Consider the following:

• Familiarize yourself with the laws governing employee leave.
• Maintain well-documented policies on the types of leaves.
• Train managers on how to effectively keep records of employee absences.
• Use incentive pay for perfect attendance.
• Schedule shifts that appeal to employees.
• Consider flex-time or flexible scheduling.
• Cross-train employees to cover for absent employees.
• Implement call-in requirements to a designated manager—no voice mail or email.
• Use focus groups to identify trends in absences—perhaps there are safety issues.
• Know when discipline for excessive absenteeism is legal and appropriate.
• Remind employees of the importance of hand hygiene (A recent study found that 68% of respondents didn't wash their hands long enough to remove germs, 36% don't wash after coughing or sneezing, 31% don't wash before eating, and 8% don't wash after using a restroom.)
• Offer flu shots and health screenings.
• Look into absence-tracking technologies.

While the implementation of these techniques is likely to yield a reduction in excessive absenteeism, an indirect effect could be an improvement in the work environment itself. Taken together, these impacts will certainly be an improvement to the bottom line and once again move your organization in the direction of being an employer of choice. IBI