Let’s face it, even the most perfect employee is going to miss work at some point.
Whether they catch a cold, have a family emergency, or expect an important home delivery, it’s extremely rare and not totally healthy for an employee to never miss a day of work.
When an employee calls off or misses a working day, how do you keep track of these absences? To know that your team is showing up consistently, your human resources department must have an absence management plan in place.
What is absence management?
Absence management is how organizations reduce employee absenteeism, not including illness or injury, by implementing policies and procedures. It can also refer to the actual management of absences and how to streamline the ways employees ask for time off.
The best way to make these policies and procedures effective is for the HR department to ensure that they’re properly communicated to both employees and managers. Absence management is sometimes called attendance management as a way to be viewed more positively and reward employees for good attendance.
Essentially, the human resources department should create a policy and procedural plan that balances supporting employees when they miss work due to illness, injury, or other unforeseen situations and knowing when to discipline employees with frequent, questionable, or excessive absences.
Regardless of the size of your organization or industry, it’s important to develop an absence policy that’s relevant and consistent with your company’s needs, as well as procedures to support the policy. This ensures that employees always know what’s expected of their work attendance and when they need to call in sick.
Why is absence management important?
When unplanned absences occur, companies should use absence management software to keep track of all employee data. Without keeping track of this information, your company will likely experience high operational and financial costs. Having the right software can drive down instances of employee absenteeism while increasing employee productivity.
When your staff is out of the office for either planned or unplanned absences, it’ll cost your organization money.
is the average lost in the U.S each year from employee absenteeism.
Having a way to track and monitor your employees’ absence rate can ensure that your team missing work isn’t the cause of your budget being in the red.
Additionally, absence management can protect your team from a dip in productivity. When employees miss work, it causes a workforce disruption for those who are present at work. This is because employees are covering or working overtime for an absent team member. Putting in this extra effort could result in decreased efficiency, lack of employee engagement, and burnout.
If the same employee consistently misses work, the overall staff fatigue will become an issue. Having an effective way to track employee leave can help reduce the likelihood that this fatigue happens. When expectations are set before and after an absence, it helps your team bounce back faster, which helps everyone succeed.
Absence management policies and procedures
Each company’s absence management policies and procedures are going to be different. Regardless of the rules and stipulations in the policies, they need to be properly communicated to employees on day one of their employment with your company.
Whatever your company decides to put in place, it should be fair, consistent, and accommodate unforeseen circumstances that could cause employees to miss work. Whether it’s something minor like their car breaking down or something major like a medical diagnosis, everything should be outlined in the policy.
To ensure that the absenteeism policy is as comprehensive as possible, it should outline a few possible reasons why an employee may miss work. Some instances where an employee may need to be absent include:
- Short-term health leave related to a sickness
- Long-term health leave related to surgery, injury, or major medical diagnosis
- Parental or caregiver leave
- Maternity or paternity leave
- Vacation time
The policy should outline whom an employee should inform when they’ll be absent and how and when to inform that person. Employees should also be looped into absence data, measurement and recording, and any acts that’ll occur when they return to work after an extended period of time. This could include an interview, discussion, or follow-up on how to make up for missed work or assignments and how to join projects that began in their absence. You can also have discussions pertaining to expectations for when employees are off, like setting guidelines for how often they should be checking their email.
If applicable, a policy should also include payment details for missed days of work. This will explain how many sick or personal days an employee can take before they’re no longer eligible to receive paid time off. If an absence becomes an ongoing issue for employees, the policy must also specify details of any disciplinary action.
Creating an absence management policy
When your HR department is ready to create an absence management policy, they can follow a few steps to make it a seamless process for everyone involved.
1. Define what an absence looks like
This first step may seem obvious, but you’ll first want to define exactly what qualifies as being absent or tardy as well as what’s acceptable and what isn’t. This will depend on your company’s unique requirements for its staff.
2. Define the tool you’ll use to track absences
Once your team chooses the right absence management software for its needs, explain to your employees where they’ll log their absences in the program. You’ll also want to point out where the information of their past, current, and future absences is stored within the system.
Then make sure employees understand how the software works and how they should use it. This also means they know what leave types are defined in the policy, how the leave balances are totaled, and what types of leave affect them and how.
3. Define the procedures in place
Next, be sure employees understand how and when to request a leave of absence. An example of this would be your organization telling employees that they have to request a leave of absence at least 14 days before the first day of their leave.
It’s also best to outline the reasons why a leave request might be denied.
Absence management best practices
Once you have written a policy and the procedures to follow, consider the following best practices to ensure a seamless rollout across the organization.
Train managers properly
While effective absence management is considered the role of the HR team, it’s not only their job. Individual department managers should have ownership of the policies and procedures too, and they should also be trained to communicate how absences and tardiness are tracked.
Managers should have an understanding of specific citations regarding absence management, such as:
- How to deal with an employee who frequently takes sick leave
- How to enforce absence management policies
- When it’s time to escalate a situation to HR
Never enforce presenteeism
Unfortunately, it’s common to experience a toxic work environment that encourages presenteeism. This is when an employee forces themselves to show up to work, even if they don’t feel well, for fear of repercussions. So even though employees are physically at work, their productivity level will suffer with them not feeling like their most productive self. In addition to the fear of getting reprimanded, this can also occur due to genuine devotion and enjoyment toward their job.
Regardless of the reason, managers should ensure employees know that doing this can cause stress, burnout, and lead to unproductive behavior. Plus, when an employee doesn’t feel well enough to come to work but does so anyway, it can likely get other staff members to despise the work environment.
Consider the Bradford Factor
Some organizations use the Bradford Factor or the Bradford Formula to calculate a score for each of their employees based on their absence patterns. Its name is derived from the Bradford University School of Management, where the impact of short absences on businesses was researched in the 1980s.
The Bradford Factor can reduce the likelihood of employee absences when the employees are shown their score regularly.
To find the score of each of your employees, the formula is:
S x S x D = B
S is the total number of instances an employee is absent in a year
D is the total number of days of absence for that employee in a year
B is the Bradford Factor score
To use the formula, let’s say your employee Matt has three instances of absences with 10 days off work within the year. The first instance is a day off work to go to the DMV. The next instance is three days off work due to food poisoning. The final instance is six days off due to the flu.
The formula would be:
3 x 3 x 10 = 90 points
If your organization chooses to implement the Bradford Factor, consider setting up specific trigger points related to the Bradford points. A common breakdown of a point scale used by organizations is:
- 0 points = no concern for that employee
- 51 points = an informal verbal warning to the employee
- 201 points = a written warning to the employee
- 401 points = a final written warning to the employee
- 601 points = dismissal of the employee
Conduct a return to work interview
A return to work interview is a great way for your company to reduce absences when part of your comprehensive workforce management strategy. These interviews are best used when an employee has been out for longer than a week as a way to reset goals, discuss new objectives, and ensure that all the team members have the tools they need for success.
Embrace remote work and flexible hours
Another best practice that also reduces how often your employee's miss work is offering flexible working hours and a robust remote work policy.
Consider how often an employee takes the entire day off work for an important errand, a can’t-miss home delivery, or something related to their family. Working from home or offering flexible hours ensures they handle their personal tasks and their professional work seamlessly.
Of course, offering one or the other or both is going to depend on your organization’s industry. Certain jobs will obviously require employees to be physically present at work, but even so, consider implementing flexible hours that’ll work for your team.
While companies with only a few employees are probably fine using a spreadsheet to keep track of absences, it’s always good to utilize absence management software that can do some of the hard work for the HR department. That way everything you need to track and manage employee absences can be found in one place.
Absence management software
When an organization is looking to manage, track, and plan for employee absences, it should utilize absence management software. This includes vacation time, sick leave, and so on. Companies can use absence management systems to define what an absence looks like for their corporation while also keeping track of all requests and approvals from managers.
To be included in this software category, a product must:
- Assist administrators to manage absence approvals and requests
- Enhance management reporting of absences
- Allow organizations to define relevant absences
- Ensure compliance across various geographies concerning the geo-specific state, provincial, or federal laws while also following all corporate and union policies
*This list is based on G2 data and individual G2 Scores collected on April 14, 2021. Some reviews may have been edited for clarity.
For small and medium-sized companies of up to 2,000 employees in need of HR software, look no further than Personio. This application has set out to make HR processes faster, clearer, and more efficient while allowing HR managers more time to focus on employees. With everything from recruitment processes, employee management, and payroll wrapped up in one system, customers love Personio.
What users like:
“It is giving us the opportunity and flexibility we need with our fast-growing company. There are numerous challenges like a constantly growing number of employees and hierarchy levels. With its constant development of new features and API, we feel confident to tackle the challenges of the future. In addition to that, we are running our entire recruiting with Personio.”
- Personio Review, Jan L.
What users dislike:
“Of course, not all functionalities are perfect yet, but it seems that Personio is constantly working on the software. The dashboard, for example, is already pretty good for small HR teams, but if you work with several HR managers, the task list in the dashboard is not yet really mature. We are missing some features there but are hoping that they will be added soon. The usability of the basic functions is quite simple, however, you have to think a bit around the corner for some roles/vacation/working time settings to make sure everything is set correctly in the end.”
- Personio Review, Martine B.
As the name suggested, 247HRM automates a ton of HR functions, plus it’s built for smartphone use, making it easy for employees to access the platform from anywhere. 247HRM boasts features like talent and performance management, exit management, paid time off, time and attendance management, and so much more.
What users like:
“I have used many HR software, but I haven't come across an HR software which gives an error-free payroll without any manual intervention or uploading an allowance. But with 247HRM, you can automate your entire payroll from employee attendance capture to leave management, payroll, and statutory compliance. It also has easy-to-use, self-explanatory, and accurate reports according to our requirements.”
- 247HRM Review, Betha K.
What users dislike:
“It has to improve on the appearance and the UI and should work on the errors which are occurring repeatedly.”
- 247HRM Review, Praveen K.
3. Replicon PSA
Replicon PSA provides companies with end-to-end time management software and services, which makes it possible for the HR team to capture, analyze, and optimize time off requests from employees. This allows organizations to improve profitability, productivity, and employee satisfaction. Salaried and hourly workers all find Replicon PSA easy to use to log time off, vacation, expense information, and more.
What users like:
“Customer service experience is unparalleled, and the features of the software serve all of my corporate timesheet and expense tracking needs.”
- Replicon PSA Review, Sean G.
What users dislike:
“The working clock system for mobiles and cloud clocks can apparently be integrated with the Replicon platform, but by doing so, it is not possible to obtain a stable tracking through the use of the GPS tool, so it is not recommended to work remotely.”
- Replicon PRA Review, Rita P.
4. ADP Vantage HCM
For decades, ADP Vantage HCM has been a top choice for businesses looking to prepare for the future. This software solution can boost employee engagement, help your team find, recruit, and develop top talent, while also streamlining the onboarding process for new hires. It also takes the heavy lifting off of your HR team’s shoulders when it comes to payroll, time, and labor.
What users like:
“While this is a great software, it might not be ideal for very complicated companies like ours. Vantage is an all-in-one suite with all of the pieces linked together, and for that reason, it's one of Vantage's standout qualities. It does have a test site which is a nice option, but it does require frequent updating, which is not discussed a lot. The HR side is wonderful and is very user-friendly. Recruiting is made simple, and the I-9 makes things a lot easier.”
- ADP Vantage HCM Review, Brianna B.
What users dislike:
“The portal design and feel could be better. Also, an option for the end-user to manage its dashboard will improve it for the better. Some places within the tool can get quite confusing when filing tax details by not showing detailed pop-up messages.”
- ADP Vantage HCM Review, Sabique A.
5. Gaia WFM Suite
Gaia WFM Suite provides organizations with a comprehensive workforce management solution that’s cloud-based and manages employee time and attendance. It also includes workforce analysis for real-time data reports and metrics, which can improve workforce efficiency. Plus, the Smart Scheduler feature helps businesses create streamlined team schedules by implementing forecasting and scheduling algorithms.
What users like:
“This application has a simple and clear display interface, plus it’s overall a good product with good service. Most of our requirements can be realized. In addition, the workforce dashboard makes daily work more efficient and convenient. We also launched an e-contract module online, that's a great improvement on the realization of a paperless office.”
- Gaia WFM Suite Review, Catherine G.
What users dislike:
“It would be great Gaia WFM could have more flexibility on the standard setup to meet different needs.”
- Gaia WFM Suite Review, Administrator in Chemicals
Absence makes the employee stronger
As long as they’re not abusing the time off policy.
At the end of the day, you’re paying employees to show up and put in the work, so you need to know who’s calling off and how often. The right absence management policies and procedures in place can help to streamline this initiative.
Once you’re happy with your absence management policies, be sure to work them into your recruitment marketing strategy as a way to attract top talent.