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Employers have heard all the excuses. My alarm didn’t go off. My car broke down. My babysitter didn’t show up. I have a terrible cold. Though sometimes those excuses for being absent or late ring true, chronic absenteeism and tardiness can become a major problem in the workplace, wreaking havoc on productivity as well as morale.
You would think that getting an employee to show up on time, every day, would be a simple matter. But these days, you really can’t simply say, “Be here or be fired” when an employee walks through the door late or not at all. Especially when you throw in legal factors such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
For this reason, employers must employ strategies that not only combat absenteeism, but also keep on the right side of the legal line.
Disciplining employees requires a delicate balancing act. Push too hard and you alienate people. Tiptoe around the core issue and you confuse people. It’s never easy, and most managers never learned how.
When it comes to disciplining an employee for absenteeism, there are several different strategies at your disposal. And deciding which one to take isn’t always cut and dried. You can avoid making disciplinary mistakes that could lead your company to court by following these do’s and don’ts:
√ DO figure out what is an acceptable level of absences, if your organization does not specify a maximum number. Think about how many days an employee could miss without significantly sacrificing work quality.
× DON’T penalize employees who have a legal reason to be late or absent, e.g., they’re going to physical therapy or alcohol treatment, or have permission to leave early for a doctor’s appointment. The same goes for employees who have a legitimate reason to be late or absent, e.g., using company benefits they have earned, like personal days.
√ DO make sure you understand what’s off-limits and who gets the last word on any gray areas that may be in dispute in any policy that affects attendance.
× DON’T undermine your company’s absenteeism policy by ignoring any step that isn’t convenient. It can lead to charges that you applied the rules in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner.
√ DO recognize the difference between the employee who was out one day all year—even if you suspect it wasn’t for a good reason—and the employee who has a chronic problem. Adjust your discipline accordingly.
× DON’T get bent out of shape if an employee challenges your interpretation of any policy that deals with attendance. Work it out.
√ DO begin documenting absences as soon as you notice a trend. Record dates, hours absent, and the reason the employee gives for them.
× DON’T put employees in the impossible situation of choosing their jobs over their health or family responsibilities. That could be a violation of the FMLA.
No manager enjoys handing out discipline. But it’s an important part of the job, and if you do it the right way, you can help a misbehaving employee solve a problem — or get rid of an employee who is a problem.
Effective managers communicate concern, redirect unruly behavior and confront wrongdoing while maintaining a respectful tone. They leave no room for misunderstanding or misinterpretation.
P.S. If you find this newsletter helpful, please consider sharing it with your friends, family, and colleagues. If you need assistance, call 940-228-0550. You can visit my website for more information at www.donswiftandassociates.com.