Dealing with abesenteeism
A difficult choice
When an employee repeatedly fails to turn up for work, what can an employer do?
A report published last year shows that absenteeism is costing small businesses over €490 million per annum. That figure is the direct cost. When you consider additional costs such as overtime, lost productivity, customer dissapointment, and time spent managing absences the figure rises sharply.
The good news is that that figure has decreased as many business owners have actively managed absenteeism.
Why should I manage absence?
Failure to manage absence has a detrimental effect on workplace morale and increased stress at work.
It has been shown that an effective absence management policy can reduce the impact of absenteeism.
What steps can I take to reduce absences?
Review all health and safety policies and procedures. By maintaining a safe place and system of work, you will reduce the impact of injuries on the rate of absences. This is a legal obligation under the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 .
A Short Guide to the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, Download here
The Employment Equality Acts 1998-2008 places a duty on the employer to treat all workers equally. Disability is one of the grounds upon which discrimination is prohibited. The definition is so broad that it can take into consideration illness. You need to ensure that you do not breach the act when dealing with repeated absences due to illness.
The benefit of an absence management policy
An absence management policy is a mixture of encouragement and obligations. A policy should set out the employer's expectations regarding attendance and absence. It should also make clear to the employee, what steps are required in the event of an absence. Who should they notify, when and how. They should give the employer a method of contacting them should the need arise.
The disciplinary aspect should be made clear. What happens if they fail to comply with the absence policy? Sick pay measures should be addressed. Back to work interviews have proved to be invaluable in discouraging impromptu absences. The employee has to give a reason for the absence.
Remember circumstances can be different for each employee, so treat each absence as a seperate incident when assessing its validity.
Getting a medical opinion
Make sure that your employment contract covers this. Also ensure that correct procedures are followed.
To dismiss or not to dismiss
Remember that all dismissals are deemed to be unfair. This places the onus on the employer to show that the dismissal was fair.
Where an employee is absent continuously on grounds of ill health, you should seek an independent medical review. This will give you an indication of the employee's prospect of returning to work. There are many examples of situations where the Employment Appeals Tribunal upheld the dismissal in circumstances of ill health in one case and then in other cases of similar circumstances failed to uphold the dismissal. The lesson to be taken from these cases is that no two cases are identical, even when the seem to be, on the surface. You really have to take each case individaully. This is also true when examining each absence.
Take care when deciding to dismiss based on absences. Take independent advice.
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Image courtesy Michael Duxbury