Unscheduled absenteeism costs American businesses billions of dollars every year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). There are myriad potential costs to take into account, including:

  •  Overtime;
  • Paid Sick Days;
  • Use of temporary or “relief/reserve” employees;
  • Reduced productivity;
  • Poor quality of goods or services resulting from replacement workers’ inexperience or fatigue;
  • Administrative costs associated with absenteeism;
  • Time spent finding suitable replacements; and
  • Discipline.

Another cost employers must be aware of is the negative attitude that reliable employees can develop toward the company. These employees become tired of doing someone else’s work and wonder why management doesn’t address the problem properly. If you have one or more employees with attendance issues, you need to solve the problem for financial and employee morale reasons.

Does Your Workplace Have an Absenteeism Problem?

To begin solving the problem, you have to develop reliable metrics, including having the ability to measure your absentee rate.  This is as simple as adding the number of employees absent during a particular time period (perhaps one month) and dividing it by the average number of workers employed during that period. The national average absentee rate is about 2.5% for salaried and hourly employees in all industries. Companies should calculate absentee rates to work toward a goal of reducing absenteeism.

If So, How Do You Solve It?

No one solution can reduce excessive absenteeism. Solving the problem can involve improving your company’s employment practices, changing your company culture, updating your compensation plan, or providing better supervision. However, the quickest and most effective way to reduce employee absences, tardiness, or early departure is through attendance policies that address unscheduled absences. For example, a policy covering nonexempt employee absences should include the following key points:

  • If they’re able to, employees should personally call in as soon as possible to report the absence.
  • Absent employees should call in each day they are absent unless other arrangements have been approved in advance by the employer.
  • A clear definition of “lateness” or “leaving early” should be established. For example, is being “late” arriving anytime after the starting time, or is there a grace period?
  • A list of excused absences should be provided — for example, bereavement leave, Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave, jury duty, and leave due to a work-related accident.
  • The total number of unexcused absences that equates to excessiveness needs to be clearly defined in any policy.

A clear policy lets employees know exactly what to expect.  The end result is that each employee will be treated fairly and consistently, and the company will significantly reduce problems associated with excessive absenteeism.