From the Hotline: Managing Excessive Absenteeism

Question: A long-term employee has had excessive absences in the past year and no longer meets work hour requirements due to these absences for benefit purposes. How should it be addressed?

Answer: We recommend that you address the attendance issue first before the benefits eligibility concern. If there are certain medical or personal issues that are causing the absenteeism, you may be able to assist the employee in getting his or her attendance back on track. If there is no justification or medical needs presented, then follow your progressive disciplinary process for managing excessive absenteeism and document your actions. Approaching the employee sooner rather than later will ensure that you manage this issue and get attendance back on track, not only for the employee involved but also for the entire work group who have been handling the extra work when this employee is absent.

We recommend the following steps in a one-on-one discussion with the employee:

Address that you are meeting with the employee to address the ongoing absenteeism that has been taking place over the past year.

Share that you have seen good attendance prior to this and want to learn if there is anything going on that you may not understand, and offer up the resource of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if available. (Take note that if anything related to protective acts surfaces, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, you will want to take appropriate action and possibly delay the next step.)

Then share the need to place the employee on notice that the company can no longer tolerate the amount of absenteeism that has been demonstrated. Effective immediately, there is a need for the employee to be in attendance daily working the stated scheduled hours. In the event that the employee is unable to do so, the company requires a physician statement certifying the need of the employee to be off work; until such time a document can be provided the employee must correct and sustain this need. Close the conversation sharing that you hope the employee understands the seriousness of this matter and takes the concern seriously.

Provide a document defining the same, and request that the employee acknowledge the discussion took place by signing the document. The signature denotes the discussion was held on that date, not that the employee agrees or disagrees.

Retain this document for future follow up, to address any benefit concerns that may arise, or to defend the company’s action in the event of dismissal or unemployment filing. We do not recommend changing the employee’s position or hours, as it may be perceived as retaliatory. Ceasing benefits or adjusting hours due to a performance/absence concern is not a best practice due to the possible risk of an allegation of retaliation.