Employees need access to paid time off to recover from illnesses, address family matters, and take well-deserved vacations. However, there is a big difference between an employee who calls out sick to recover from the flu and an employee who calls out frequently for no apparent reason. Every employer knows that chronic employee absences are bad for business; however, not all absences are punishable. In fact, federal law protects many of them.
Before employers begin disciplinary action against chronically absent employees, they need to make sure the employee didn’t miss work for any of the following reasons:
- FMLA. The Family and Medical Leave Act allows employees to take time off work to deal with major life events. These include the birth of a child; adopting a child; caring for a severely ill or injured parent, spouse, or child; severe health conditions that prevent the employee from working; and personal or family emergencies related to their involvement with the military. To qualify, employees must provide documentation such as a doctor’s note, adoption paperwork, etc.
- USERRA. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act protects service members against disciplinary action following absences due to their service. For example, the military may activate employees serving in the reserves, requiring them to deploy. This act protects absences related to tours of duty as well as absences spent addressing emotional and administrative issues related to the deployment.
- ADA. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with documented disabilities. If an employee misses work because his or her duties cause undue hardship, federal law protects that absence.
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. While this act focuses on preventing discrimination in the workplace, employers need to keep it in mind when addressing absences. For example, the act protects employees who call out for a religious holiday or ceremony. Employees need to determine the root cause of an absence before beginning disciplinary actions; otherwise, they may find themselves facing a discrimination lawsuit.
While the above absences have legal protection, not all absences are legitimate. Employers need a robust absence management solution to help them keep track of employee attendance and determine which absences are reasonable and which require a closer look. Contact the experts at Actec to learn more about reducing absenteeism in the workplace.
It can be difficult for employers to address employee absenteeism for a variety of reasons. Some absences employers can identify as fraudulent. For example, an employee who always calls out sick the day before or after a holiday is likely abusing their sick leave. Another possible misuse of leave could be an employee who always has a family emergency crop up right before a major deadline. While some of these absences may be legitimate, employers who notice attendance patterns need to address it.
How to Discuss the Problem
Employers need to address absenteeism when they first notice it. However, there are good and bad methods of leading an attendance conversation with an employee. Below are several tips for employers to ensure the conversation is productive.
- Remain aware that the meeting is investigative in nature and not disciplinary. Adjust your tone to one of concern rather than threatening. The employee is a member of your team and the emphasis should be on resolving a problem rather than issuing a reprimand.
- Ensure the meeting is private. Public areas such as the employee’s cubical are inappropriate and are not conducive to a productive outcome.
- Have your facts ready before the meeting. Know the dates of all absences, reasons given for the absences, etc. Not being prepared can have the opposite intended result of the meeting. The employee may not take your concern seriously if you have not done the appropriate legwork.
- Ask the employee for more details about the absences. There may be a genuine problem contributing to the ongoing attendance problem such as a sick family member or lack of adequate childcare. If the problem is ongoing, try to offer solutions such as a flexible schedule or shifting workdays to allow the employee to take care of their personal life as well as their professional life.
- Explain to the employee that their absences are affecting operations. Many employees do not believe their role is significant enough to hinder productivity if they miss a day every now and then. Providing concrete data that shows how their unplanned time off affects sales can highlight the cost of their absences.
After meeting with the employee, continue to monitor their attendance. Employers need to address any continued absences or improvements. If you observe a noticeable improvement in the employee’s attendance, be sure to let them know you appreciate their efforts.
Some absences are unavoidable. However, employers need to address attendance issues before they become habitual. Taking the right approach to managing absences can yield much better results than going on the offensive. To learn more about absence management, contact the experts at Actec.