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Attendance Management Program

An attendance management program can be split into three basic parts:

  1. Development of information/communication systems
  2. Information Testing
  3. Taking appropriate group action

1. Information Communication Systems

The first step of an effective attendance management program is to identify specific areas which are affecting attendance. Some general causes of absenteeism are listed at the beginning of this paper. The best way to find which specific areas are affecting absenteeism in a specific work environment is to develop open communication between managers, supervisors and employees. The reason for this is that it is not really the physical realities of the work place that influence employees willingness to work but rather their perceptions of these realities. For example, workload is only a problem if it is thought to be one. It is important that employees are encouraged to voice their concerns so their perceptions of the work place are clear and can be dealt with. This type of communication is especially important in unionized environments as employees often tend to communicate only with their union representatives. The result is that vital feed back necessary for effective management is lost. Cooperation with union representatives can be very helpful in attendance management and should be encouraged if possible.

Formal communications networks such as regularly scheduled department meetings are an excellent way not only to hear employee perceptions and concerns but also to communicate organizational goals. When employees are encouraged to make a difference they are less likely to withdraw their participation through absenteeism. Employees must not only be heard, they must be answered in such ways as to assure them their input is worthwhile. Staff development meetings are important in moulding company ideals with employee needs. They are also important in developing a sense of team spirit among coworkers. Full participation in such meetings is to be encouraged if they are to be effective.

Informal communications are also very effective in identifying and dealing with employee needs and perceptions. Informal communication involves all levels of managers and supervisors. Supervisors are especially important because of their hands-on approach and contact with employees. An employee's relationship with their supervisor can greatly influence their feelings about their work, their coworkers and thus their attendance at work.

Insight, intuition, creative thinking and listening are all powerful ways of finding areas which affect attendance. Ideas and information should be encouraged from all sources. The establishment of varied communication channels is useful in gathering information and to an extent, in confirming it. Effective communication in itself can effectively reduce absenteeism.

2. Information Testing

Once communication networks are established, information on perceived problems from employees will be bountiful. Before taking action on any issue, no matter what the source of information, it should be confirmed.

A simple and effective way to check whether a specific issue truly affects absenteeism is by finding correlations through using attendance records. If it is suggested, for instance, that absenteeism is increasing due to employee dissatisfaction with their workload, all one need do is match the attendance records during a period of "high" workload to a period of "normal" workload. If absenteeism is found to be significantly higher during increased workload periods, then it has been confirmed that actual workload "is related to" absenteeism levels. If no correlation exists it may be that employee perception of workload affects absenteeism. In this case the importance of the employee perception could be confirmed through staff development meetings. In any case two different problems have been distinguished which require different types of attention.

Attendance records also should be used to monitor attendance trends. Are long term or short term absences more common? What percentage of employees have excessive absences? The answers to these questions trigger attention to individual employees when their absences become excessive as will be discussed in the Guidelines for Absenteeism Control section.

Attendance record forms are designed to facilitate the determination of whether or not absenteeism patterns exist.

3. Taking Appropriate Group Action

The best way to handle any given situation is to handle it on its own merits and within the guidelines of the goals one is trying to achieve. This paper does not attempt to give all the answers to every possible situation but rather, offers suggestions and guidelines on which answers can be built.

In summary, to run an effective attendance management program it is important to:

  1. develop ways for each and every employee to feel free to contribute ideas and suggestions even though these may be outside the scope of their job responsibilities
  2. make each employee aware that they are a valued member of the "team", that they play an important role in your organization and that their attendance is critical
  3. hold regular meetings, keep your staff informed and involved
  4. know your employees; without prying show an interest in their personal lives
  5. be aware of problems that may effect employee attendance or performance
  6. familiarize yourself with community programs which you can recommend to an employee if he/she has a need for assistance (i.e. marital or financial counselling)
  7. awareness, commitment and involvement by all levels of staff

Positive motivation should be the main body of any attendance management program because it produces the best results. If an employee's experiences in the work place are pleasant, if he/she feels valued and appreciated, if supervision is fair but firm, that employee will be more motivated to attend work regularly.

Guidelines for Bona Fide Absence

1. Reporting Absences

Employees must personally notify, either by telephone, or in person, their immediate supervisor or designated person-in-charge before the start of their shift if they anticipate being absent from work. Employees should be encouraged to give as much notice as possible for anticipated absences. Employees should give a minimum (1) hour notice or the minimum notice if stated in their collective agreement.

2. Contact with Employees

Absent employees should be requested to keep contact with their employer. The employer should be informed of any changes in the employee's health status. Employees should be called if they are not keeping contact with the employer. The purpose is to show concern and desire for the employee to regain a healthy status and return to work. It is important that the employee does not feel imposed on. Refer to collective agreement provisions regarding sick leave reporting.

3. Reporting Back to Work

In order to avoid duplicate coverage of a scheduled shift, an employee who has been absent from work must give as much notice as possible of their intention to return to work. Before returning to work employees should be notified of the amount of notice which is necessary to re-schedule them back to work. If they must produce a physician's certificate it should be handed in upon their return to work. Most collective agreements have provisions for return to work notification.