Are Your Employees Missing In Action?

Blog located in Small Business posted on June 25, 2015

According to a Morneau Shepell survey[1]¸more than half of all employees – 52% – calling in sick for work are not actually suffering from an illness. There ‘s a wide range of reasons for this. Family issues, workplace conflict, issues with managers and even taking time off to look for another job were cited as some of the drivers behind taking sick days. All of these issues, said Paula Allen, vice-president of research and integrative solutions at Morneau Shepell, can be boiled down to work-related stress.

The RIGHT Intervention Matters

On a recent outplacement assignment, the CEO asked me if they should expect resignations or people calling in sick. This question confirmed that employers are not totally in the dark when it comes to dealing with employees missing work. But it’s not enough to address the symptoms; companies must address the root cause of absenteeism.

Nevertheless, many companies are still asking for doctor’s notes and address absenteeism as a performance management problem. In reality, this aggravates the issue, since being on performance review is one of the reasons employees will be calling in sick.

Employers must uncover and address the roots of the issues.

Cause # 1: Work pressure

When work pressure goes up, absenteeism rates will naturally go up as well. Sometimes, employees trying to avoid stressful situations (e.g. difficult meetings) would coincidently report in “sick “on that day. It is obviously an excuse to take the day off in order not to face such pressures.

Cause # 2: Relationship with the boss

What are working relationships like in the office? Are leaders putting too much pressure on their employees? Perhaps they are demanding beyond what was expected from their subordinates? Employees, especially those in junior positions, would rather not report to work if they can avoid confrontations with their demanding bosses.

Cause # 3: Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction is a key factor for retention.   A low job satisfaction level is one reason why people change jobs or work environments. Absenteeism will occur when employee satisfaction is lower than what they would accept in their daily work.

Cause # 4: Genuinely sick

Many employers have established income replacement plans to protect their employees from the economic consequences of absenteeism due to illness. Where such a plan exists, any absence from work for medical reasons may give rise to a dispute over whether the absent employee is entitled to benefits. In any particular case, this issue will be determined not according to general legal principles, but based on the particular language of the plan provided. This means that a careful review of your plan(s) and the documentation that describes the plan(s) to employees is necessary.

It is therefore extremely important to have absenteeism tracked and under control. In order to do this, employers must address the needs of their employees. There should be mutual respect between both parties in order to have a workable solution.

[1] http://www.morneaushepell.com/ca-en/insights/illness-not-biggest-cause-employee-absenteeism

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