excessive absenteeism

8 surefire steps to handle employee attendance issues

Maybe you’re the kind of business leader who prefers to create a work culture free from the corporate grind of time clocks, rules and rigid schedules. Or you don’t want to be that person at your company, the one who knows exactly what time everyone gets into the office.

Whatever the reason, few business leaders relish calling out employees for being tardy or missing work. But if there is excessive absenteeism, without a compelling reason, you can’t ignore this kind of behavior. Here’s why:

Your other employees can’t ignore it

They’re stuck picking up the slack for the missing employee or employees, or helping with tasks they normally wouldn’t have to do. That’s stressful for employees already stretched to the max.

Your company’s reputation is at stake

When employees aren’t doing their part, the entire team may fall behind on meeting deadlines. In some cases, that could mean losing a valuable contract, and earning your company a reputation for not delivering a product or service on time.

Absenteeism affects morale

Over time, the situation can breed resentment and disengagement among employees, and bitterness toward you, their employer. Your employees may wonder why they work so hard, when employee X suffers no repercussions for his excessive absenteeism. Or escalating bitterness could provoke an argument between problem employees and their coworkers.

Simply put, absenteeism is a big deal for business leaders. And when you consider lost productivity, morale and temporary labor costs, the price of absenteeism grows even more substantial.

But if absenteeism is so problematic, why is it so hard to address? Often, business leaders just don’t grasp the enormity of the issue. They don’t see how excessive absenteeism affects other employees and their business until it’s too late. Or they bring up the issue of absenteeism with offending employees, and take their word that they won’t miss work again.

The result? When there’s a lack of serious consequences for excessive absenteeism, employees won’t take it seriously.

Let’s be clear…

You need a clear and consistent approach to effectively curb absenteeism. Follow these steps so your employees know exactly where you stand:

Step 1: Put it in writing

An employee handbook is a great way to spell out your policy on excessive absenteeism, as well as the reporting process employees should follow if they’re late or absent. State the consequences of excessive absenteeism — including the potential for termination.

Step 2: Gather information

Before you broach the subject of excessive absenteeism with employees, prepare yourself with examples, and the dates and times they were late or absent. With data in hand, they can’t deny it.

Step 3: Tell them you’ve noticed

It’s okay to casually address the issue with first-time offenders. Here’s a sample script: “Hey, listen. I know you showed up late a couple of times. It’s really important that you get to work on time, and that you come in the days you are scheduled. If you can’t, it is even more important to follow our process concerning absenteeism. Here’s a copy you can keep for reference.”

Step 4: Show your concern

Then follow up with something like, “When we don’t hear from you like we’ve defined in our policy, we get concerned that something may have happened to you. That’s why it is so important to notify us.” Placing the emphasis on your employees’ well-being helps take them off the defensive.

Step 5: Open up a discussion

Give them a chance to explain, and offer solutions. Their poor attendance record may be the result of a bigger issue. “Is there something going on that’s causing you to be late or miss so much work? Is there something we can do to help?”

Step 6: Make accommodations when appropriate

If an employee has difficulties getting to work on time after dropping their children off at school, for example, you could arrange a more flexible schedule, if that works for your business and doesn’t inconvenience your other employees.

Step 7: Know when to take it up a notch

If the excessive absenteeism or tardiness persists, it’s time for formal counseling. Depending on your company’s structure, counseling could come in the form of meetings with the employee’s immediate manager or an HR representative. Lay out your expectations for attendance, and the serious consequences for unexcused absences from work.

Step 8: Call in the pros when necessary

It may be wise to consult an HR professional when employees are absent due to a health condition or family medical emergency. This situation needs to be handled delicately to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Family Medical Leave Act.

With these steps in mind, you’ll help put the brakes on excessive absenteeism, and make your company a much happier and more productive workplace. For more tips, download our free e-book, A practical guide to managing difficult employees.

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4 responses to “8 surefire steps to handle employee attendance issues


This is a really good article. The steps mentioned were on point. Thanks

Insperity Blog

Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Gary! So glad you enjoyed the article. Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Caroline Hernandez

Great article!

Insperity Blog

Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the read 🙂

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