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The Essential Guide to Developing a Comprehensive Absence Management Policy

Published on
April 20, 2023
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A Guide to Develop the Best Absence Management Policy for Your Company

Employee absenteeism is an inevitability in any company. Employees can’t always show up to work, whether it’s a sick day, a planned vacation, a car failure, or a family emergency. Rather than punish absenteeism, managers and leaders must have a comprehensive employment absenteeism policy supporting your organization and employee well-being.

With an effective absence management policy, you can navigate absenteeism like a pro and prepare yourself for unexpected changes in employee attendance. This article will provide everything there is to know about creating an effective absence management policy, from different types of absentee policies to legal requirements and addressing employee well-being. Keep reading to discover how to develop the best policy to lead your company in the right direction.

What is Absence Management?

Employee absence management encompasses an organization’s approach to managing and reducing high levels of absenteeism. An effective absence management policy is necessary to adhere to HR best practices and procedures.

The human resources department is typically responsible for identifying issues with employee absenteeism and implementing corrective policies to manage and reduce absenteeism. There are many factors addressed in absence management policies, including policies related to the following:

  • Acceptable absences
  • Disciplinary procedures for unacceptable absences
  • Procures to request and take employee leave
  • Amount of available sick and vacation days annually
  • Contact process for unplanned absences
  • Return-to-work procedures

Why Absence Management Matters

Absence management might not seem like a huge deal when approaching the process. However, your organization is vulnerable to damages incurred from improper absenteeism protocol without a keen understanding of the importance of an effective absence management strategy.

If you’re still wondering why absence management matters, consider the following:

  • $36.4 billion is lost by U.S. businesses annually because of employee absenteeism.
  • In 2019, nearly 3 percent of the U.S. workforce was absent on any given day.
  • Employees who take on additional work from absent employees take a significant toll on the business and the employee. Overtime hours cover 47 percent of employee absences, and co-workers that take an absent employee’s work are 29.5 percent less productive.
  • Many employees practice buddy punching and time theft, causing companies to lose an estimated $373 million annually from buddy punching.

What is a Leave of Absence?

A leave of absence occurs when employees take off from regular work. Unlike paid time off, a leave of absence is unpaid and typically used to deal with unforeseen events and circumstances. For instance, an individual might rely on an employee leave policy for medical purposes, education, or a sabbatical.

Employees can take many types of leaves that you should offer in your absence management policy. Remember that absence management encompasses several policies related to different absenteeism-related situations.

Types of Absence and Leave Policies

Employers can safeguard employee well-being while protecting the business by effectively implementing some of the following types of absence and leave policies.

Sick Leave Policy

A sick leave policy describes a company’s rules and procedures for absenteeism caused by employee illness or injury. Employees can use sick leave to cover any of the following instances:

  • Personal medical needs
  • Caring for family members with severe health conditions
  • Family care or bereavement
  • Adoption-related purposes

Though specifications vary between employers, a sick leave policy will usually specify the number of sick days or hours an employee is entitled to have in a given period. This policy should outline the steps necessary to request and report sick leave for planned and unplanned medical incidents. Some organizations require employees to provide a doctor’s note or documentation depending on the care level and the absence length.

A sick leave policy should also include a comprehensive record-keeping strategy to protect your company’s integrity and guarantee employee compliance with the policy.

Paid Time-Off Policy

A paid-time-off policy covers a broader spectrum of absence types beyond sick leave. This policy combines the number of days an employee can take while still getting paid at the average rate. These absences cover personal appointments, family obligations, or any non-specific reasons why an employee needs time away from work.

Paid time-off policies include information such as the number of days or hours an employee is allowed annually, consequences of policy violations, provide a notice period for requesting time off and receiving approval, and explain how time-off requests across all employees are prioritized when numerous employees request time off.

Vacation Policy

As a company leader, never hesitate to offer employees a flexible vacation policy. These policies govern the procedures and rules for employees taking time off for planned vacations and outline the amount of time an employee can take off annually based on various criteria.

Some employers allow vacation time to be carried over if not all vacation hours are used yearly.

Vacation time is crucial to foster a healthy workplace environment and prioritizing employee well-being. By offering vacation time to employees, you can encourage a healthier work-life balance and give your hard workers time to decompress and recuperate from workplace stressors.

Taking time off from work has various physical and mental health benefits, including the following:

  • Sufficient vacation time can increase employee mindfulness and bring employees back to the present.
  • Vacation time reduces stressors that raise your chances of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, or stroke, making this time essential to an employee’s heart health. Researchers have found that people who vacation more are less likely to be at risk of heart disease. Vacation also reduces workplace-related stress, contributing to more robust heart health.
  • Taking vacation time can improve sleep quality and eliminate restless nights that employees are commonly plagued with during the work week.

Parental Leave Policy

A parental leave policy addresses time off allowed for employees that become parents during their employment, whether related to birth, foster care, or adoption. Parental leave policies outline the duration of available leave for new parents. However, these policies vary between organizations and are often divided into categories, such as maternal, paternal, and adoption leave.

Parental leave policies include logistic details about parental leave, including how to apply for this type of leave, the eligibility requirements, an explanation of the duration of paid leave, and whether benefits become limited under specific circumstances. A parental leave of absence often qualifies for protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Personal Leave Policy

A personal leave policy give employees time to take away from work. Employees approved for a personal leave of absence are not paid. The employee must submit a leave of absence request by writing to their department manager and include the reason for their leave of absence and the requested time off.

HR managers determine whether to approve a personal leave request based on the following:

  • The purpose of the leave
  • The amount of time the employee will be away from work
  • The effect that the leave will have on the rest of the department
  • The quality of the employee’s performance before submitting the personal leave request

Legal Requirements for Employee Leave

HR professionals often struggle to develop a comprehensive and effective absence management policy because they forget to consider the legal requirements for employee leave. Devising an absence management policy requires companies to adhere to FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) compliance standards.

While leave laws differ by state jurisdictions, you can find some standard protocols across most employer policies. Among the legal requirements for employee leave policies include the following that leaders should keep in mind.

Policies for Giving Employees Time Off to Vote

No federal laws require employers to give employees time off to vote. However, most jurisdictions have varying laws requiring employers to provide employees with enough time off to vote, which is often paid. Along with providing time off to vote, most state jurisdictions protect employees through policies preventing employers from interfering or intimidating employees based on their political viewpoints and right to vote.

Jury Duty Leave Laws and Policies

Court leave for employees summoned to jury duty is required on both a federal and state government level. Most states actively prohibit employers from disciplining or terminating contracts with employees who take time off to serve on a court jury, and this time off is typically unpaid.

Federal laws dictate that employees have a right to take necessary absences to serve as a juror outlined under the Jury Systems Improvement Act. While some states might not prohibit an employer from taking severe action to discipline employees that take court leave, employees taking time off to serve in federal court can sue employers under this act if they are discharged or intimidated by their employer because of jury duty. Unfortunately, this does not apply to state courts.

However, state laws still play an integral role in safeguarding the legal rights of employees serving jury duty. Along with states that prohibit employers from discharging an employee who takes leave to serve on a jury, other states prohibit any retaliatory action from the employer.

Laws for Military Family Leave

FMLA compliance requires employers operating an organization with more than 50 employees must offer a maximum of 26 weeks of family leave to employees with family members who are injured military personnel. Some employers must provide an additional 12 weeks for employees whose relative is on active duty or preparing to return to active duty.

These laws are better understood when considering the following leave types:

  • Qualifying exigency leaves: FMLA requires this leave when an employee receives notice that their family member is being deployed to a foreign country. Employees require time away from work to address various issues that can arise in this situation, especially in cases of unexpected deployment. Exigency leave allows employees to take 12 work weeks of FMLA leave for qualifying exigencies.
  • Military caregiver leaves: this type of leave occurs when an employee must care for an employee by allowing them to take up to 26 work weeks of unpaid time off annually to care for their relative.

Laws for Pregnancy and Maternity Leaves

Providing sufficient maternity leave flexibility is essential to maintaining a solid relationship with your employees and avoiding applicable discrimination laws. Organizations exceeding 15 employees are subject to laws that protect pregnant women from workplace discrimination. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires employers to treat women currently experiencing pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions like other employees or job candidates.

Complying with these laws should be a focus of your absence management policy. This act will ensure that women are not fired, denied a job, or not considered for promotions based on their pregnancy status.

Creating Your Absence Management Policy

Creating the perfect absence management policy depends on your organization’s unique needs and long-term objectives. From different absence management strategies and methods to systems and best practices, let’s break down what to know about creating your absence management policy to lead a more productive workplace.

Defining Types of Absences

Not all absences exist on the same level of severity or reason. While some absences could be used for employee relaxation and mental health days, others could be unplanned emergencies. Define and categorize different types of absences, including the ones mentioned above: sick leave, vacation, parental leave, personal leave, paid time-off, and other legally-required policies are all unique.

Different types of absences require different eligibility criteria and duration limitations. Along with categorizing types of absences, have a clearly-defined approach to how your organization defines absenteeism, tardiness, chronic tardiness, and presenteeism. Defining these terms and ensuring employees understand the ins and outs of absence types can prevent non-compliance and improve communication.

Establish Eligibility Requirements

Determine your specific requirements for who is eligible for different types of paid or unpaid leave, and establish the notice period employees must follow when requesting time off. Have an easily-accessible guidebook on the specific process for submitting absence requests to ensure that employees have a fair opportunity to request time off without going through loops. This factor is crucial to implementing a consistent, fair absence management system.

Know How to Track Absenteeism

Recording time off is everything regarding a successful and comprehensive absence management policy. Keeping absenteeism recorded for different employees offers crucial insights into how employees perform, work-life balance, and any similarities between unscheduled absences. An effective tracking system lets you quickly gather reports that provide the insights you need to improve presenteeism rates.

Have Clear Guidelines for Approval and Denial

Ensuring your absence management policy is as fair as possible requires clear guidelines on the factors considered when deciding whether to grant time off requests. Without explicit approval and denial guidelines, your employees will be confused and upset if their time off isn’t approved.

In your policy, outline all factors considered when approving or denying an employee’s absence request. Guidelines can include factors specific to your organization and general details like staffing requirements, prior time off approvals for different employees, operational needs, scheduling fairness, and legal obligations. By clearly communicating these factors, you can prevent unnecessary conflict.

Know How to Manage Excessive or Repeated Absences

With any absence management system, there’s a risk of employees taking excessive or repeated absences that significantly disrupt your organization’s productivity and team member dynamics. Attendance issues and violations must be tracked and addressed to ensure that productivity doesn’t take a massive hit from the actions of a single employee.

In cases of excessive absenteeism, speak with employees and have a process that might include counseling or progressive discipline that complies with employment regulations, depending on the cause of the employee’s frequent absences. Always communicate this aspect of your policy to employees so they understand the risks that come with unnecessary absences.

Find Software With the Right Features

An absence management system can provide crucial insights into employee attendance and absenteeism rates. Knowing what to look for in software for this purpose is essential. Some of the most vital features to look for when considering this software include the following:

  • Employees can quickly request time off and log sick days
  • Managers can access these requests and quickly approve or deny requests
  • Managers can track and log unexcused absences
  • HR leaders and managers can access relevant compliance laws
  • Employees can efficiently clock in and out of work

Provide Incentives for Attendance

You must make your employees want to come to work, not feel like it’s a taxing obligation. When employees feel incentivized to attend work, your organization can start lowering its absenteeism rates. Have a workplace attendance policy to ensure that all employees know what’s expected of them. Employees with perfect attendance or above-average attendance rates might be incentivized by any of the following:

  • Cash bonuses for perfect attendance
  • Extra allowance for planned time off
  • Small rewards like unique gift cards or items tailored to the employee’s preferences
  • Verbal appreciation for your top-performing employees with perfect attendance
  • More workplace privileges, like longer lunch breaks than other employees without perfect attendance

Communicate All Benefits and Entitlements

Offer your employees essential information on the benefits and entitlements that accompany different types of leave, such as paid leave versus unpaid leave. Ensure that your employees understand their rights and obligations concerning their leaves of absence. Additionally, communicate benefits like carry-over abilities for unused vacation time and time-off accrual.

Create Flexible Work Arrangements

Given the constantly-shifting nature of the modern business world, leaders must include flexible work arrangements in their current absence management policy. With more and more employees turning to remote and hybrid work, knowing the possibilities for employee working arrangements is vital. Consider the following arrangements to meet your employees’ needs and encourage them to perform at their best in an environment where they’re most comfortable.

  1. Compressed work weeks: These weeks involve employees working longer shifts for fewer days a week to reach their weekly hours faster and have space to take the remaining days to themselves.
  2. Flextime: This arrangement allows employees to set hours independently rather than following a specific, rigid schedule.
  3. Part-time roles: Offering part-time instead of entirely full-time positions helps employers attract a wider talent pool of people with the skills to help your business but not the resources to work traditional, full-time hours.
  4. Remote work: Remote working is undoubtedly familiar to anyone in the modern workforce, whether or not you’ve practiced it. With a remote arrangement, employees can work remotely wherever they’re most comfortable, such as their home.
  5. Hybrid work: This arrangement is also familiar to many with the rise of remote work and involves a setup where employees work both from and out of the office on different days. This arrangement appeals to many employees and can offer various benefits when included in an absence management policy.

Understand HR Best Practices

An effective human resources management approach is integral to a comprehensive absence management policy. Knowing HR best practices can help you succeed through human resources policy development that meets the needs of employees and organizations. Some of these practices include the following:

  • Have clear job descriptions and specifications to attract the best candidates during recruitment and selection
  • Use a structured interview process and focus on specific job-related competencies.
  • Embrace diversity and inclusion within your workforce.
  • Offer a comprehensive onboarding program to ensure new employees understand absence management policies and acclimate quickly to the company.
  • Provide regular training programs to target specific employee skills and knowledge.
  • Encourage continuous learning
  • Communicate your organizational values, mission, and culture to foster a sense of belonging.
  • Foster open communication channels between leaders and employees.
  • Have clear performance expectations and goals for individual employees
  • Consistently provide feedback to employees to encourage growth.
  • Encourage employee involvement in company decision-making processes.
  • Recognize and reward employees with above-average attendance.
  • Promote employee well-being and a healthy work-life balance.
  • Leverage technology whenever possible to streamline lengthy processes
  • Frequently re-assess your HR and absence policies and practices for effectiveness.

Get Help Developing Your Policies From the HR Experts at Redstone HR

Redstone HR provides an innovative solution for modern businesses to thrive in an ever-evolving workplace. From streamlining compliance solutions to providing the necessary resources to create a robust absence management policy, Redstone HR has what your company needs to succeed in its management policies.

Check out Redstone HR today to find the right management solution for you and start building toward your company’s prosperous future.