Employee absence policy: How to properly handle absenteeism

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A good employee absence policy is worth having to avoid exit interviews like this

Employers have the right to depend upon their employees to perform their jobs to the required skill level — with regularity, expertise, and professionalism. When employees don’t meet these expectations, organisations soon find themselves hunting around for employment legal advice.

Employees are expected to be present at work for their employment responsibilities every time they have a scheduled shift. In the event that they are not, all parties should refer to the employee absence policy.

If an employee is absent, they must inform their employer as to the reason for their absence. If the absence is going to be extended for any length of time, the employee must alert the employer to that fact and arrange for sick leave (with relevant doctor’s notes), personal leave, family medical leave, or annual leave to cover their time off.

These requirements should be included in your employee absence policy. All team members should fully understand the following excused absence reasons, which don’t negatively impact their attendance record:

  • Sick time
  • National Holiday
  • Family Medical Leave
  • Short term disability
  • Long term disability
  • Vacation

Employees should also be well informed of the proper chain of supervisors or administrators who have the authority to accept excused absences. These people can include your Employer, your Direct Supervisors/Managers and/or Human Resources.

What happens when your employee simply does not show up for work?

First, it is imperative that you attempt to contact the missing employee to determine if there has been some sort of accident or unexpected illness. Once the employer has reached out to the employee to determine the cause of the absence, various steps can be taken.

It is also very important to review your employee handbook regarding unannounced work absences and follow the employee absence policy. This will help you to differentiate between regular attendance, poor attendance and excess absenteeism.

What to include in your employee absence policy

Your employee absence policy should contain the following warnings and allowable actions:

  • The number of unexcused absences allowed prior to giving the following warnings;
    • A verbal warning was given by human resources or designated manager
    • Written warning delivered to the employee with proof of receipt
  • Notice that a meeting will be held with the employee to discuss the absences;
    • Allow the employee the opportunity to explain the circumstances surrounding the unexcused absence
    • Explain to the employee the effect their absence has on the company
    • Give the employee written notice of the consequences of any further unexcused absences, including disciplinary action
  • A clear statement that persistent absences will be cause for termination

The situation can become worse if you cannot make contact with your missing employee. While job abandonment is less prominent, it does happen.

Job abandonment is defined as an employee being absent from work, without notice to the employer, over a number of consecutive days (usually 3). In addition, the employee must not have made arrangements for official time off. During this time if the employer cannot reach the employee certain steps must be taken.

Steps to take if you cannot reach your absent employee

  1. Always make multiple attempts to contact the missing employee via telephone or email
  2. Also, contact their emergency point person from their personnel records to find out if there has been an emergency
  3. Check with other employees to see if the missing employee gave notice to another manager or supervisor
  4. Document all of your attempts to contact the employee

If you are still unable to reach the employee, you must send the employee a registered employee attendance letter, stating the following;

  • The number of days the employee has been absent
  • The lack of notice given by the employee to the employer
  • The date upon which termination will occur if the employee does not contact the employer – this is usually 5 business days.
  • Include the appropriate paperwork for short/long term disability or Family Medical Leave

If there is still no response from the staff member, the employer must document the employee as being terminated due to “no show” or voluntary quitting. This will make it impossible for the employee to collect unemployment compensation or claim wrongful dismissal.

Making staff aware of your employee absence policy

Above all else, it is imperative for the employer to be sure that all employees have read and understood the company’s employee absence policy for all forms of absenteeism. In addition, it is equally important that in the event of unexcused absences, all employees are treated in the exact same manner and in accordance with all human resources and employee handbook policies.

If you find yourself in need of assistance with this or any other legal issue, we have some of the best employment lawyers Sydney has to offer here at Owen Hodge Lawyers. We are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.

Here at Owen Hodge Lawyers, we are always striving to deliver the employment guidance you need. Find out more about the contract termination process, and read the latest news on the Owen Hodge Blog, including our recent post regarding employing overseas workers.

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