When you’re trying to run a business, it can be pretty irritating to have employees who consider work to be an optional part of their day. One of the first things to do is to check with your human resources department or company attorney about the laws that apply to your situation and to your employees. Workers with disabilities, for example, are typically allowed leave to deal with issues related to the disability, but the employee must also document that leave. In many cases, knowing the applicable laws will be the best guide in dealing with the question of absenteeism.
Beyond that, try a few other techniques to deal with the problem.
Have a written policy
Armed with the knowledge of the local laws, write out a policy that explicitly states your expectations for employees. Inform employees about who to call, how much notice to give, and protocols to follow regarding doctor’s notes. For example, you might ask employees to give at least 12 hours’ notice of an absence, to call their direct supervisor, and to provide a written doctor’s note for any illness-related absences that extend beyond more than 48 hours. Also lay out the consequences for not following the protocol, such as a documented verbal warning followed by a written warning, and finally, a suspension or termination.
Follow through with the protocol
Whatever you put in place, make sure all employees are aware of the protocol. Have an employee meeting in which you review the new policy. When a new employee starts work, review the policy with that person, and have all employees sign a document acknowledging that they’ve read the policy. Then do what you said you would when someone continues to have problems with absenteeism.
Reward those with good attendance
Not all of your actions have to be punitive -- and in fact, positive reinforcement might make a bigger impact on employees. Initiate a program that rewards employees who have perfect attendance for a certain period of time. For example, create a bulletin board featuring the people who have had perfect attendance for three months. After six months, you might reward individuals with gift cards or other prizes.
Practice good communication
Whatever your policy or practice, talk about it often. Maintaining the bulletin board, sending out email announcements or otherwise acknowledging employees with good attendance on a regular basis helps to keep the issue at the forefront of people’s minds.
Also practice good communication when people don’t live up to your standards. When you have a chronically-absent employee, talk to him or her as soon as you notice the problem. Document the number of days the person has been absent and ask whether there’s a reason. If the employee shares information about problems with a supervisor or boredom at work, having that conversation can help you come up with solutions to fix the problem and to get a more productive employee in the future.
Get help from the higher-ups
If you’re an employee who’s dealing with chronically-absent co-workers or bosses, you don’t necessarily have to stand by and watch it happen -- especially if the absences are affecting your ability to do your job, suggests Alison Green of the Ask a Manager blog. Voice your concerns to someone more senior than the offending party, stating the facts of what you’ve seen. Then allow that senior person to handle it. You might not see the senior manager is taking action, but chances are that even if he were, he wouldn’t share the information with you, suggests Green.
Whether you’re an employee, manager or business owner, you’ll need to accept that people will be sick or missing from work from time to time. But by having good policies in place and taking action when necessary, you can do your best to minimize the problems it causes.