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A Publication of WTVP

Two-thirds of U.S employees who call in sick probably aren’t, according to the 17th Annual Commerce Clearing House Unscheduled Absence Survey—the only survey out there that measures costs associated with unscheduled absences. Other than personal illness, why aren’t employees coming to work? The study reveals that family issues (22%), personal needs (18%), an entitlement mentality (13%) and stress and burnout (13%) are causing the call-offs. Thirty-eight percent of employers also reported that presenteeism—when employees come to work in spite of illness— is a problem in their organization, and of those, 87 percent report that sick employees suffer from short-term illnesses which can spread easily and lead to more absences.

The problem of absences can never be totally eliminated, as all employees will, at some time, have legitimate reasons which prevent them from attending work. A planned absenteeism program can effectively reduce the problem. As a business owner, manager or HR professional, what can you do to reduce excessive absences in your organization? The first step is to determine the nature of the absenteeism problem. Determine the main cause of absences, when they are occurring and the associated costs (i.e. overtime or productivity). Once the nature of the problem is identified, a plan to control it can be implemented. A couple measurements are the absence rate and percentage of unscheduled absences. Poor employee morale can be a prime contributor to increased absenteeism. In fact, according to the survey, organizations with good or very good morale experienced a two percent unscheduled absence rate, while those reporting poor or fair morale had a rate of 2.7 percent. Consider the typical reasons employees are motivated to come to work—job satisfaction, reward or punishment, commitment and, of course, the need for money. Is low morale the culprit in your organization?

In order to determine which absenteeism control methods will work best for your organization, identify which of the factors are most important. According to the survey, disciplinary action (89%), yearly reviews (82%) and verification of illness (79%) continue to be the most common absence control programs. It is interesting, however, that paid leave bank, disciplinary action and buy-back are actually considered the most effective means of controlling absenteeism.

The survey also revealed that the average cost of absenteeism per employee is $422 per year. When lost productivity, lost revenue and the effects of poor morale are considered, this number increases. Organizations are putting solutions to the problem of unscheduled absences into practice and offer employees a variety of work-life and absence control programs, such as alternative work arrangements, telecommuting and compressed work weeks. In addition, according to the survey, the three most implemented work-life programs are employee assistance plans, flu shot programs and wellness programs.

The problem of unscheduled absenteeism is not going away. Organizations need to be proactive and evaluate the programs they have in place. Consider the demographics of your workforce and decide on the solutions which will work best. IBI

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