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Employee Absence Management: What Is It & Why Is It Important?

  • Recursos humanos
  • Artículo
  • Lectura de 6 minutos
  • Last Updated: 04/09/2024

Una empresa ofrece a los empleados motivación para mantener la asistencia.

Table of Contents

Consistent employee attendance is crucial for smooth business operations. But inevitably, employees take time off from their jobs.

While employee absences are common for businesses, chronic and unexcused absences (employee absenteeism) can negatively affect your organization and indicate a larger problem for individual employees and your company. Knowing how to manage absences in the workplace is crucial to an organization's ongoing success.

When employees are absent from work, it can affect many aspects of business. The cost of decreased productivity can result in significant financial loss and a negative impact on the quality of a company's goods and services. At the same time, other employees may have to take on additional responsibilities and tasks due to their co-workers' absence, often resulting in lowered morale due to feelings of being overworked.

Employee absence management can help to lessen the damaging effects on the company and its workforce. Technological innovations, such as integrated time and attendance software, can reduce lost productivity, boost employee morale, and help you maintain your wage and hour compliance.

When managing absences in the workplace, it's also important to follow applicable federal, state and local leave laws and anti-discrimination laws.

What Is Absence Management?

Absence management refers to the policies and procedures businesses develop to manage employee absenteeism in accordance with federal and state leave laws. Absence management solutions range from state-of-the-art time and attendance technology to enhanced workforce training and education and flexible work options.

Solutions for managing workplace absences start with a comprehensive absence management program. As noted, advanced software and other approaches are critically important.

Why Is Absence Management Important?

When an employee is consistently absent from work, the effects may be wide-ranging. Obviously, this entails more work for their co-workers, who may already feel overburdened by their responsibilities. As noted, this can lead to burnout, lower morale, and a sense of unfairness—factors that contribute to drops in productivity, concerns about the quality of a product or service, and other potentially damaging conditions in the workplace.

It’s important to note that unexcused employee absences are separate from the anti-discrimination and accommodation laws that allow employees to take leave from work. For example, employees may have a covered condition that entitles them to an accommodation or leave. Also, there are more state and local mandated leave laws, including paid sick and safe leave laws, bereavement leave laws, and paid family and medical leave laws, of which all employers should know.

The benefits of absence management may include:

  • Wage and hour compliance
  • Compliance with various state and local laws and ordinances
  • Identifying potential need for employee accommodations
  • A boost in efficiency
  • Consistency in the number of employees present and on the job
  • Enhanced employee morale
  • Savings in costs due to lost productivity

A time and attendance policy is a highly effective tool in combating absenteeism. Accurate time tracking leads to fewer data errors and overpayments and reduced time and labor relating to administrative and managerial tasks. Companies that enforce systems like this are often more successful in overcoming deficits caused by chronic absenteeism.

Creating Standards for Absence Management

While there’s technically no such thing as an “absence management policy,” devising and implementing a comprehensive set of rules governing employee time off is the best way to offset employee absenteeism. Matters addressed by an absence management program can include:

  • What documentation an employer needs to approve absences outside of PTO (Paid Time Off), leave of absence, or similar employer policies (e.g., a physician’s note)
  • How and whom employees should notify before not coming to work
  • Disciplinary practices for excessive absenteeism

Here are key action steps to take:

Commit to Ongoing Communications

Reaching out to employees and explaining why instituting an attendance policy is essential. HR staff, department heads, and supervisors must be ready to discuss this policy in some depth with their teams to ensure compliance.

Communications should cover employer expectations regarding attendance, details of any available employee leave or sabbatical program, and how attendance data is tracked and reviewed under company policies.

To be effective, an attendance policy should inform employees of what's needed to request time away from work (and who to notify).

Outline Standard Procedures

A key part of communications is clarifying the absence management rules for all employees. Who should they contact when they anticipate an absence from work? What are managers and supervisors expected to do when faced with an employee's habitual absence from work? Is there a clear-cut method for approving or rejecting an employee's request for time off? These and related questions are sure to be asked by employees, so coherent explanations should be formulated in advance.

Be Prepared To Enforce Your Rules

Perhaps the most essential item to communicate to employees is that the absence rules applies to all employees across the board. Training and education for department managers may be necessary to effectively implement a fair policy.

Note that there are circumstances in which you should deviate from your standard employee absence procedures: accommodations, required leaves, etc. You may also choose to implement different policies or expectations that vary between categories of employees. For example, how might your absence expectations change for exempt vs. non-exempt employees?

Tips for How To Manage Employee Absences

Several key action steps can help reduce employee absenteeism. These include:

Offer a Flexible Work Schedule

One increasingly popular solution to chronic absenteeism is the implementation of a flexible work schedule. When employees manage their time and attendance responsibly, businesses often see a heightened awareness and sense of responsibility with their co-workers. Whether the flexible schedule is a shortened workweek or long-term remote work, the goal is to reduce the number of times an employee feels compelled to be absent from work.

Offer Motivation To Maintain Attendance

Some businesses foster better engagement at work by motivating employees to be consistent in their presence on the job through attendance rewards. This type of approach may only be effective if it's perceived as being applied equitably to employees.

Undertake a Return-To-Work Interview

When an employee has been absent for a prolonged period, conducting a return-to-work interview is often helpful. Why? It's an opportunity to talk one-on-one about any organizational changes made during their absence. Make clear that this conversation isn't mandatory, then explain how it can help the employee and the company. Encourage employees to discuss any issues or obstacles they perceive due to their absence and any adjustments needed to hit the ground running upon their return.

Make Sure Your Time and Attendance Technology Is Up to Date

One ongoing issue among some businesses is their reliance on outdated or inefficient time and attendance methodology. This can result in costly data entry miscalculations, errors related to documenting employee absences, and squandering of time and resources on administrative tasks. Look closer at your HR department's software and explore more accurate state-of-the-art time and attendance technology.

Manage Absences With Time and Attendance Software

Absence management systems offer a significant step forward in addressing time and attendance issues. Cloud-based systems like Paychex Flex® Time help businesses conserve time, reduce or eliminate data entry errors, and provide employees with the information they need to plan time off effectively.

This type of integrated solution results in a consolidated and simplified time tracking process for managers and administrators because employee hours are automatically linked with payroll and other HR functions. This enables the HR team to focus on more strategic HR services that help the entire organization.

Every business depends upon ongoing attendance and productivity in its workforce. To reduce employee absenteeism, companies can use various solutions addressing the issue of absence from work.

Absence Management FAQs 

  • What Are the Different Types of Employee Absences?

    What Are the Different Types of Employee Absences?

    The most commonly designated types of employee absences include:

    1. Planned absence, approved in advance by the employee’s manager who also makes sure the absent team member's responsibilities are effectively covered
    1. Sudden or unexcused absences, when an employee takes time off without prior notice, and various temporary solutions must be found to cover for this absence
    1. Unanticipated absence, where (as with sudden absences) managers must make last-minute arrangements for the absent employee's responsibilities

    It's critical that absences be documented in all types of employee absences. This paperwork can prove essential in later return-to-work interviews or disciplinary action, in cases of chronic absence.

  • How Do You Track Employee Absences?

    How Do You Track Employee Absences?

    Historically, manually tracking employee time on paper time sheets was one way to track employee attendance. With the advance of technology, many employers now rely on sophisticated tools such as an integrated time and attendance solution that closely monitors employee attendance, requests for time off, and adjustments in scheduling.

  • What Is an Example of Absence Management?

    What Is an Example of Absence Management?

    Examples of this approach to employee absenteeism can include absence management training (for both employees and managers), implementation of flexible work schedules, and requiring documentation concerning prolonged employee absences.

  • How Does Absenteeism Affect the Workplace?

    How Does Absenteeism Affect the Workplace?

    The key effect of a high absenteeism rate is lost productivity, sometimes amounting to a considerable loss of time and money the organization must otherwise cover. Absenteeism also has a potentially harmful impact on employee morale and retention.

  • What Is the Role of HR in Absence Management?

    What Is the Role of HR in Absence Management?

    The role of human resources is critically important in coping with employee absences. Through training, close monitoring of time and attendance, and the use of advanced technology, managers and HR can address the problem promptly and effectively.


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* Este contenido es solo para fines educativos, no tiene por objeto proporcionar asesoría jurídica específica y no debe utilizarse en sustitución de la asesoría jurídica de un abogado u otro profesional calificado. Es posible que la información no refleje los cambios más recientes en la legislación, la cual podrá modificarse sin previo aviso y no se garantiza que esté completa, correcta o actualizada.

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