Absence Management and Workforce Management
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That absence management is a key component of workforce management does not
really need an explicit mention. However, planned and unplanned absence is a
universal fact of work and many organizations might take it as something that
cannot be avoided.
There are ways to minimize both absence and its impact.
First, we need to look the factors that cause absence, particularly unplanned
absence that is more disruptive to work.
Reasons for Absence
- SHORT-TERM SICKNESS: Short-term sickness is a major contributor to
unplanned absence. An employee might call in sick, or produce some kind of
certificate to prove the sickness
- LONG-TERM SICKNESS: This kind of absence is usually covered by a
- UNAUTHORIZED ABSENCE OR PERSISTENT LATECOMING: The employee might just
absent himself or herself without any excuse, or might be a habitual
- AUTHORIZED ABSENCE: Employees are entitled to different kinds of leave
under the provisions of employment laws. These include annual vacations,
maternity (and paternity) leave, educational leave, and so on. These kinds
of absence can be scheduled and alternative work arrangements can be made
through advance planning
Measuring Absence and its Cost
Many organizations do not take the trouble to find out the cost of employee
absence, the reasons for the absence and ways of reducing its impact. With
proper focus, absence is controllable to some extent, and the resultant
benefits can be significant.
By accumulating absent hours (including late hours) and comparing it to
total available hours during the period, we can calculate the percentage of
time lost owing to absence. By comparing the percentage for different periods,
the trend of absence can be monitored.
By department and section wise monitoring of the trend, it might even be
possible to identify some of the reasons underlying high absenteeism. For
example, poor working conditions or a bad manager or supervisor might be
aggravating the problem in a department or section.
Absence can also be measured by individual workers. The number and length
of absences of each employee during a 52-week period is noted. Problem
employees can be identified and the reasons underlying their absence can be
Policies and Actions for Absence Management
Surveys have revealed that sickness is a major factor for absence. The
studies also indicate that stress-related absence is increasing compared to
Absence management starts with clear policies for allowing employees to
take time off due to sickness. The policies should meet the minimum
requirements under the law, and can be more liberal to attract better
The policies must be communicated clearly to employees. In particular,
employees must be fully aware of the procedures for availing sick leave, such
as whom to notify, when a doctor's certificate or examination by company
doctor is required and also any return-to-work interview requirements.
Implement systems to measure absence by departments/sections and by
employee. Seeking the help of occupational health professionals to reduce the
incidence sickness and stress can help reduce incidence of occupational health
and injury problems.
Unacceptably high and persistent levels of absence need to be handled
through disciplinary procedures.
Absence management is an important component of workforce management.
Absences can occur owing to different factors. Managing absences start with
the organization measuring the levels of absence and identifying the reasons
for it. Once a clear picture is available, organizations would find it easier
to tackle unacceptably high levels of absence.
Studies indicate that sickness and stress are major contributory factors to
absence. These are unplanned absences and cause more disruption. We look at
sickness absence in more detail in a separate article.
About the Author
Lucy Caudle, Marketing at SMART, writes about the benefits of
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2008-01-02 20:11:30 in Employee Articles