COVID-19 has created new challenges for businesses in several areas, one of which is absence management. As many businesses begin a phased return to the office while others are maintaining their remote staff, keeping track of absences and leave requests can quickly become confusing. Prior to COVID-19, it was common practice to urge sick employees to stay home. Now, it’s less a matter of should symptomatic employees stay home and more an issue of when it’s safe for them to return to the workplace and how that affects leave and absence policies.
Federally Protected Leave and Emerging Programs
Federally protected leave programs like FMLA, disability leave, and so on still apply during COVID-19. However, the U.S. Department of Labor issued two new forms of leave to address the challenges created by the pandemic: the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.
Both fall under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which grants up to 80 hours of paid sick leave to employees who have to quarantine due to a government order or at the recommendation of their physician. Employees experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking treatment also qualify for this kind of leave.
FFCRA also offers up to 80 hours of paid sick leave at two-thirds of employees’ regular income if they are unable to work because they have to care for a quarantined individual or child due to school and childcare closures. Employees can seek an additional 10 weeks of paid leave at two-thirds of their regular income if their child’s school/care facilities remain closed due to COVID-19 so long as they have been employed for at least 30 days. FFCRA is available through the end of the 2020 calendar year and employers can acquire a payroll tax credit for 100% of the amount.
Tracking Employee Leave Requests
Tracking leave requests, remaining compliant with shifting Federal and state employee leave laws, all while keeping the workforce healthy will quickly overwhelm HR departments. Actec developed the app Absence 365 to meet businesses’ absence management needs during these stressful times. This customizable app allows employees to submit leave requests and centralizes all absence notifications in one location. In addition to remaining compliant, the app can also help employers recognize trends to enact effective change within their company. Contact us to learn how we can help meet your business’ absence management needs.
Nearly three-fourths of businesses experience a problem known as time theft, which is when an employee receives income for time he or she didn’t work. This isn’t like sick leave or vacation leave, as the employee informs his or her employer of those absences. With time theft, the employee takes the pay on the sly and the employer is often none the wiser.
What is Buddy Punching?
Buddy punching is one of the most well-known forms of time theft and many employees don’t realize they’re doing anything wrong when they do it. Employees who are running late or need to leave a few minutes early will ask a coworker to punch in or out for them to avoid trouble with their boss. Most coworkers don’t view this as time theft but as one buddy doing another a favor.
A few minutes here and there may not seem like much, but time theft like this costs businesses across the country more than $373 million per year. For small businesses with numerous part-time employees, this could shake out to roughly $30,000 per year. Thankfully, businesses have a number of tactics available to them to prevent buddy punching:
- Develop clear rules and enforce them. Employers may think actions like buddy punching are clearly a bad idea, but that isn’t always the case. If attendance guidelines aren’t explicit, employees have room to interpret them on their own. Spelling out attendance rules in clear language allows employers to enforce them effectively.
- Stop using physical cards. While not many workplaces use antiquated punch machines these days, plenty still have physical cards that are easy to swipe in or out for a friend. Several online applications allow for digital timecards, which are less prone to buddy punching.
- Implement sensitive logins and passwords. While high-tech time cards are harder to falsify, it’s not impossible if employees share their logins to continue their buddy punching practices. Making ID numbers personal or sensitive will make employees less prone to sharing the information and thus cut down on buddy punching.
- Lean on technology. If all else fails, employers can turn to biometrics or geofencing to eliminate buddy punching. With biometrics, employees can’t scam the system since their thumbprint or facial recognition won’t match up correctly. Geofencing is also effective as it relies on GPS, Wi-Fi, and cell data to create a fence around the business. If the employee isn’t physically within that fence with their cellphone, they won’t be able to clock into work.
Businesses, especially small businesses, can’t afford to lose thousands of dollars every year for work their employees never performed. Eliminating time theft like buddy punching can help improve attendance as well as boost businesses’ bottom lines. However, buddy punching can be a symptom of a much larger issue. Employees who arrive late and leave early can be a sign of a burgeoning absenteeism problem. Contact the experts at Actec to learn how we can help your business improve attendance and reduce absenteeism.
Cold and flu season is notorious for causing frequent, prolonged absences in the workplace due to illness. Businesses attempt several methods to reduce this problem by implementing hand sanitizer stations, employing industrial-strength cleaners, and providing employees with resources on staying healthy. While these are all good things to do, employees can take additional steps on their own to ensure their continued good health.
- Stay home when ill. Many employees feel compelled to come to work even when they’re sick. They may be afraid of falling behind on a major project or overburdening their team by not contributing their part of the work. However, coming to work with an active infection or illness can spread the disease and cause widespread absences, which will only worsen workloads and deadline delays. The best thing employees can do once they contract the flu or other illnesses is to stay home until they’re no longer contagious.
- Limit sharing. Borrowing a pen or sharing a bag of chips may seem charitable, but it’s asking to spread germs. Coworkers don’t always show signs of sickness despite being infectious in the early stages of their illness. Limiting contact with coworkers during cold and flu season is a smart tactic to avoid germs.
- Keep hand sanitizer close. Employees accept forms, sign for packages, use communal office equipment, and perform several tasks that bring them into close contact with each other even if they avoid sharing personal items. Having hand sanitizer to use after touching office supplies and equipment can cut down on the spread of germs.
- Stop touching your face. People touch their faces constantly throughout the day without thinking about it. Rubbing their eyes, scratching at their nose, and covering their mouth while they yawn are instinctual actions, but they also spread germs. Employees that frequently touch their faces are giving germs easy access to invade their bodies and spread disease.
- Keep a tidy workspace. Wiping down surfaces, keyboards, and phones with disinfectant wipes can halt germs in their tracks. Being mindful of coffee cups and food containers are also critical as germs can linger on these surfaces and infect employees when they drink or eat. Thoroughly cleaning dishes and keeping food containers sealed can help prevent this.
Educating employees on personal habits to prevent illnesses is critical to reducing disease-related absences. If your workplace is struggling with absenteeism, Actec can help. Contact us to learn more about our absence management system.
There are several legitimate reasons an employee may call out of work. Illnesses, federally protected leave, and family emergencies can arise without notice. However, when employers begin to notice certain employees always seem to call out sick during the summer or holiday season, they may have an absenteeism problem on their hands.
The Effects of Absenteeism
Absenteeism rates vary depending on the industry, but the averages range from 2.1% to 4% of the workforce. While that may not seem very high at a glance, it can have far-reaching consequences. For businesses with 500 employees, this can mean as many as 20 employees are misusing their sick leave. This costs employers in several ways. Not only do they have to pay the employee for work they didn’t perform, but it also puts a strain on the remaining employees as they have to pick up the slack. This can result in missed deadlines, a loss of reputation, poor workplace morale, and a hit to profits.
Monitoring Sick Leave Abuse
The simplest way to prevent absenteeism is to be aware of it through an attendance system. Employers can keep an eye on potential sick leave abuse in the following ways:
* Recognize the signs and intervene early
* Find out why the employee is abusing their leave; there may be a larger problem at play causing the absences such as office bullying or a scheduling conflict
* Learn to say no to unrealistic requests for leave
* Ensure employees are aware of sick leave policies as well as the resulting disciplinary action for abusing sick leave
Of course, another element of monitoring sick leave is encouraging employees to use it correctly as well. Employees who come to work despite their illness can spread contagion and cause widespread absences.
Balancing legitimate sick leave requests while preventing absenteeism can be a challenge for employers. This is why having an absence management system is vital. Such systems can track absences, identify attendance trends, and more. Contact the experts at Actec to learn how we can help your business eliminate absenteeism.
With cold and flu season well underway, many employers are keeping a wary eye out for the telltale sniffles and sneezing that precede an office-wide breakout of illnesses. While workplaces can take several steps to reduce the likelihood of spreading germs, germs linger in several sneaky places. Without addressing these areas, employees can begin to fall ill and not understand why. The following are some of the biggest sources of germs that hide in plain sight:
- Kitchen faucets. Everyone knows that office bathrooms are breeding grounds for disease as multiple people touch the door handles, faucet knobs, and towel dispensers. As a result, employees take more precautions in this high-traffic area. However, they rarely give the same attention to kitchen faucets. If the office has a breakroom or a kitchen area with a sink, it can be a breeding ground for germs.
- Cellphones. People use their phones more than ever and it’s become a Petri dish employees carry with them everywhere they go. Hands and mouths are the most common human sources of germs and both interact with phones on a regular basis. If employees pass around phones to share ideas or socialize during lunch, they could be spreading illness without realizing it.
- Gym equipment. Many workplaces offer access to onsite gyms or gym memberships to their employees as part of a wellness program. While exercise improves the immune system, gyms house a lot of germs that aren’t often correctly dealt with in a timely manner. While gym-goers should wipe down equipment before and after use as a standard of etiquette, a wet towel isn’t enough to disinfect it.
- Money. Employees go out for lunch or have meetings with clients over coffee all the time. During these interactions, they’re going to exchange cash, coins, or cards with the wait staff. Even if the restaurant requires employees to wash hands, there is no accounting for where money has been or whose hands it passed through.
Identifying the hidden sources of germs allows employees to take steps to prevent falling ill or spreading disease throughout the workplace. Frequent hand washing, keeping hand sanitizer close by, and avoiding touching the mouth, nose, or face can all help reduce an office-wide flu pandemic. If your workplace is struggling with illness and frequent absences, the experts at Actec can help. Contact us to learn about how our absence management system can reduce absenteeism and improve other elements of employee attendance.
With fall well underway, employers should take steps to keep the flu and other illnesses as far from the office as possible. While it may be impossible to block it entirely, taking steps to contain germs can help prevent a staff-wide outbreak of diseases. When employees fall ill, it disrupts productivity and can tank workplace morale as projects fall behind and staff members continue to get sick. The following steps can help employers keep their workforce healthy during cold and flu season:
- According to the CDC, one of the simplest ways to prevent the spread of the flu is to encourage employees to receive the vaccine. Clinics and pharmacies often offer them free of charge or for a very small fee if employees can’t make it to their doctor’s office during normal business hours. Some employers even host vaccine clinics at their own office to make it as simple as possible for employees to receive flu vaccinations.
- Employers should look over their leave policy to ensure it encourages employees to stay home when ill. Employees who fear disciplinary action if they call out when ill are likely to come into work when they’re still contagious and infect other employees. Sick leave policies should make note that employees should wait until their fever is gone for a full 24 hours without the aid of medicine before returning to work.
- Employers should instruct sick employees to return home, including those who become symptomatic partway through the day. Keeping sick employees away from an otherwise healthy staff can prevent a workplace flu pandemic.
- Provide resources to allow staff to engage in preventative action. Keeping the office well stocked in tissues, trashcans, hand soap, and hand sanitizer can reduce the spread of germs. Providing handouts or flyers with reminders and tips on respiratory etiquette and good hygiene can help as well.
- Provide resources and education materials about employees who are at higher risk for severe health complications if they contract the flu. For example, pregnant women, individuals with asthma or other chronic lung conditions, diabetics, and so on can experience serious difficulties if they catch the flu. Employers should encourage vaccination, particularly for these high-risk individuals, as well as instructing them to seek early medical attention if they start to show signs of the flu.
Taking the above steps to keep the office free of germs and disease can help prevent or, at the very least, reduce the number of flu cases in the workplace. Keeping employees healthy is vital to maintaining good attendance and keeping productivity on track. Contact the experts at Actec to learn more ways to reduce employee absences.
With the start of the fall season, many workforces are likely readying for the impending illnesses. Once one employee falls ill, it can feel like a domino effect for the remaining staff following suit as well. However, while illnesses are legitimate reasons for an unscheduled absence, employers need to make sure there aren’t other factors at play affecting employee attendance.
Underlying Causes of Absenteeism
The following are some of the most common root causes of absenteeism.
Adults are no less impervious to bullying than children in school. Not only that, but they’re just as likely to utilize the same solution—duck out to avoid the bully. Absenteeism can be a symptom of a much larger problem than intermittent attendance. Employers should encourage employees so they feel comfortable reporting harassment. In addition, keeping an open-door policy can help as shutting management away in an office can keep problems hidden until they boil over as unscheduled absences.
Poor Morale in the Workplace
No employee will want to come into work if the atmosphere is tense, combative, or dismissive. Employees that feel disrespected or like their employer doesn’t allow them to make decisions will rapidly decrease in productivity. Their drive and desire to come to work on time (if at all) will tank as well. Employers need to establish healthy work environments and create a company culture that allows employees to thrive. Recognizing performance, hosting workplace fun days or events, and so on can help boost morale.
Employees have obligations at home that can make their work schedule seem insurmountable. Whether they are caring for an aging relative, an injured family member, or trying to get their children to school on time, employees can feel the strain of a traditional nine to five schedule. Offering flexible scheduling so employees can set their hours to better align with their lives can eliminate the need to call out to take care of responsibilities on the home front.
While absenteeism usually means an unscheduled absence, it also encompasses employees arriving late, leaving early, or taking excessively long breaks. This time adds up and can affect other employees as well. Having a robust absence management system in place can give HR the tools they need to track these scheduling infractions to identify trends and rectify the problem swiftly.
If your workplace is struggling with absenteeism or other attendance problems, the experts at Actec can help. Contact us to learn how our absence reporting program can help your business.
As summer fades into fall, employers may notice their employees struggling to engage with their tasks. Returning from a summer vacation can be difficult and lead to poor productivity, detachment, and even culminate in absenteeism. Thankfully, there are several ways employees can prevent post-vacation blues in order to thrive in the workplace.
- Incorporate a transition day. Employees who return from vacation one day and resume work the next are likely to experience stress and resentment toward their job. Not only do they have to return to the office, but they also have to catch up on laundry, grocery shopping, and potentially recover from jetlag. Incorporating at least one transition day for these tasks can make returning to work a little easier.
- Plan vacation ahead of an exciting project. While almost everyone would choose lounging at the beach over spending time in an office, planning vacations prior to beginning an exciting assignment can make heading back to the office more appealing. Plus, vacations can allow employees to recharge and reenergize to give their work more focus.
- Schedule a mid-week return. This isn’t always possible, but returning mid-week allows employees to ease back into their schedule so they don’t feel overwhelmed. Knowing that the weekend is just a couple of days away can facilitate a gentler re-entry to regular work hours.
- Pace workloads upon returning. Diving straight back in at full throttle is a sure way to burnout or begin resenting the office. Starting with less complex projects allows employees to incorporate an adjustment period to build back up to their usual pace.
- Build in easy wins. Employees can feel defeated if they return to work and struggle to get out from under a mountain of tasks that built up while they were away. Planning some high-priority but easy to accomplish tasks upon returning to the office allows employees to generate momentum and helps them find their stride again.
- Have the right attitude. Employees that view vacations as a recovery from their job rather than an opportunity to recharge will likely struggle to reintegrate into the workplace. This kind of attitude makes employees resistant to returning to work.
Employers noticing their staff members struggling with the end of summer blues should take steps to ensure a positive company culture. When employees know their employer cares about their wellbeing, it improves their productivity, engagement, and attendance. Contact the experts are Actec to learn how we can help your business tackle absenteeism and other attendance challenges.
As summer comes to a close, students will be heading back to school. This means more vehicles on the roads as teenagers drive themselves and buses pick up younger students. Not only that, but employees may transport their children to school themselves. This increase in traffic and personal responsibilities may cause problems at work as previously punctual employees begin trickling in well after they were due to arrive.
Develop a Preparedness Plan
Back to school season is an easily trackable event and it doesn’t have to present challenges if employers know how to manage it effectively. Sending out reminders to employees can keep it on their radar and recommending making adjustments to when they depart for the office can reduce tardiness. Employers should also allow for leniency the first week back to school as employees make adjustments to their schedules.
Accommodating Employees with Children
While employers don’t have to accept tardiness as the status quo, they can make changes to make it easier for parents that drive their children to school. Instituting flexible schedules can allow these employees to shift their work hours to allow for this change in their routine. Not only does this improve the employee’s morale, but it also improves their loyalty to the company, as they know their employer cares about their work-life balance.
When to Intervene
Employers may notice attendance problems at the start of the back to school season, but tardiness can be a sign of a larger problem. Employees who habitually arrive late despite adequate forewarning and fair accommodations may be abusing their employer’s trust. Implementing an absence management system can allow employers to track late arrivals, early departures, and unexcused absences.
This allows managers to identify attendance trends and pinpoint potential absenteeism before it becomes a chronic, widespread problem. Actec understands the challenges involved in managing attendance. Our customizable absence management solutions can help you stay on top of attendance and improve productivity. To learn more about implementing an absence management system, contact the experts at Actec.
Many people associate the winter months with illnesses such as the common cold. However, people are just as easily susceptible to catching a cold in the summer months as well. Unfortunately, many of the symptoms of a cold mimic those of allergies. It can be difficult to tell the two apart, and, once a sick employee comes to work, much of the damage is done. Identifying key differences between the common cold and allergies is the first step to keeping the workplace healthy.
Is it Allergies or a Cold?
The following are some of the major differences between a cold and allergies:
- Colds have additional symptoms. While allergy sufferers will experience sneezing, runny noses, sore throat, and congestion, individuals with a cold will also have coughing and feel generally run down.
- Allergies last longer. If the individual has been sneezing for weeks on end, allergies are likely the source of the problem. While allergy symptoms can be as misery-inducing as cold symptoms, allergies last much longer. Colds typically last 1-2 weeks at most.
- Cold symptoms fluctuate. Allergy symptoms are usually persistent and constant. Colds, however, can shift in intensity with certain symptoms being worse from day to day and even hour to hour.
- Cold symptoms appear in stages. For allergy sufferers, their symptoms hit all at once whereas individuals coming down with a cold experience symptoms one at a time. On day one of onset, they may wake up with a sore throat while day two may present a runny nose.
- Nasal discharge is not the same. Allergy sufferers tend to have clear, thin nasal discharge whereas individuals with a cold may notice yellowish to greenish mucus that is thick in consistency. This is due to an increase in white blood cells, indicating the body is fighting off an illness.
Preventing the spread of germs in the workplace is vital to keeping it operational and productive. Encouraging employees to wash their hands often and to stay home when sick can help cut down on illness in the workplace. Healthy employees are happier, more productive, and less prone to absenteeism. Contact the experts at Actec to learn how we can help your business reduce absences.