Absenteeism Is When Employees Don't Come to Work

An empty desk in an office where an absent employee usually sits.
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Absenteeism is the state of chronic absence from work. Absenteeism is usually addressed through progressively stricter disciplinary measures that can result in the termination of the individual's employment. This is generally governed by the organization's attendance policy. The employee handbook frequently documents expected attendance and the consequences an employee will experience for absenteeism.

Unscheduled Absence

An unscheduled absence occurs when an employee is not present at work during a normally scheduled work period.

Absences are generally compensated when their frequency and rationale fall within the guidelines established in the organization's attendance policy. These compensated absences may depend upon certain required employee actions such as seeking permission for scheduled absences from work in advance or calling in to report an unscheduled absence within organization timelines and expectations.

Some organizations also require a doctor's note when an employee unexpectedly misses work. For medical privacy, all the note needs to say is that the doctor saw the employee. Doctor's notes can cause unnecessary expenses for an employee who is too sick to come to work but not sick enough to visit a doctor.

Too many unscheduled absences can result in the termination of an employee’s employment. This is generally governed by the organization's attendance policy.

Scheduled Absence

The scheduled time off from work that occurs when an employee is not present at work during a normally scheduled work period is also an absence. But a scheduled absence is more acceptable than an unscheduled absence for which employers can't prepare.

Excused absences are scheduled in advance for such events as vacation, medical appointments, military service, family activities, surgery, jury duty, funerals and more that employees cannot schedule outside of regular work hours.

Absences are generally compensated when their frequency and rationale fall within the guidelines established in the organization's attendance policy.

These compensated absences may depend upon certain required employee actions such as seeking permission for scheduled absences from work in advance or calling in to report an unscheduled absence within the organization's timelines and expectations.

Absenteeism Policy

An absenteeism policy provides guidance within an organization about how to manage the state of employees who are chronically absence from work. Absenteeism is usually addressed through progressively stricter disciplinary measures that can result in the termination of the individual's employment. This is generally governed by the organization’s attendance policy.

The Employer's Challenge

Employee attendance is a challenge for employers especially in industries and work settings where a customer-facing person is essential. Absences can shut down assembly lines if employees scheduled to work fail to show up to man their work station. 

Patient care is hampered in settings where nursing and other patient services are needed. In retail stores, customers are forced to wait if employees fail to come to work.

Since the effects of absenteeism are substantial, employers have long sought ways to encourage employees to come to work. Methods have ranged from no-fault attendance policies to strict point systems that have employment termination as the final disciplinary step.

The punitive approach has supporters who are usually in work settings where employee attendance is essential. Other employers support a strict attendance policy but also offer rewards when employees attend such as bonuses and gifts. We prefer a combination approach in a work setting that requires employee attendance.

Yes, disciplinary consequences must exist when employees miss a certain amount of work, but recognition and rewards sweeten the deal for employees who show up for work.