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Strategies for Dealing with Employee Time & Attendance Problems

written by: N Nayab•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 5/23/2011

Time and attendance problems with employees have a debilitating impact on the organization in terms of overtime pay, lower productivity, missed deadlines, lost sales, and low productivity. Read on to find out how organizations can resolve this issue and improve performance.

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    The time-tested method of dealing with a time and attendance problem with employees is a carrot-and-stick approach of rewarding promptness and punishing tardiness.

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    Rewards

    The best way to solve a time and attendance problem with employees is by motivating them to come to work and ensuring that they lose out on some benefits when they call in sick.

    The most common incentives offered by organizations to solve time and attendance problems include special bonuses, extra leave, gift vouchers, recognition for people who meet the desired attendance standards, and allowing employees to cash in their unused sick leave at the end of the year or when they quit the job.

    Several organizations adopt an indirect method of trying to motivate the employees to come to work. Some of such ways include:

    • Facilitating better interpersonal relationships among colleagues by providing avenues for people with similar inclinations and interests to interact.
    • Conducting interesting events or competitions in the break room during break hours.
    • Effecting a shift from an authoritarian management or leadership style to participative or servant leadership styles.

    Image Credit: flickr.com/Ron Reiring

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    Identify Problems

    Establishment of a good rewards system that makes employees long to come to work regularly and on time does not solve all time and attendance issues. Often, the reasons for specific employees coming late to work or taking many leaves include:

    • Work-life imbalance. The employee might have pressing familial commitments making it difficult to honor the work schedule.
    • Stress owing to poor working conditions, conflicts at work, conflicts outside work, or any other reason.
    • A psychological dislike for work or an inability to adjust to the work routine.
    • Alcoholism or domestic violence.

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    Offer Solutions

    A good approach to controlling absenteeism and late-coming is to talk with the employee, counsel him or her on the importance of keeping time and punctuality, and drive home the implications of habitual late-coming or absence. This usually solves the issue if the employee has no other pressing concerns.

    At times, the management will have to work with the employee to evolve solutions on how to control absenteeism. Possible solutions from the company’s side include:

    • Instituting flextime or telecommuting arrangements.
    • Allowing limited time off for personal errands on requests.
    • Arranging for child-care or fulfilling a similar need.
    • Referring the employee to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for issues such as alcoholism, inability to adjust, and the like.
    • Changing the settings of the workplace such as ergonomics, climate control, and others to make work less stressful.
    • Taking steps to prevent and resolve conflicts in the organization that make employees dread coming to work.

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    A carrot-and-stick policy will solve most cases of time and attendance problem with employees. Some employees, however, do not want to conform to the rules or cannot conform to the rules for any reason. The best approach in such cases is:

    • Making the rules explicit,
    • Undertaking periodic review, and
    • Taking necessary actions.


     

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    Policies

    Time and Attendance Problem with Employee Almost all organizations have formal policies aimed at controlling any time and attendance problem with employees, but most organizations fail to implement such controls effectively. Organizations need to act on the laid-down policies to send across the message that lateness and absence constitute indiscipline by punishing habitual offenders.

    The organization’s leave policy needs to:

    • Establish clear expectations regarding leaves such as making employees responsible to apply for leaves to the appropriate authority and proceeding on leave only on obtaining official consent.
    • Make it mandatory to provide a written explanation for every unaccounted-for absence or late-coming, with valid supporting documents.
    • Make it clear that unscheduled absence and late-coming constitute indiscipline, and that such absence and late-coming beyond a specific point would be a valid ground for dismissal.
    • Make attendance records an important consideration for career advancement and salary hikes.

    Image Credit: nasaimages.org

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    Periodic Review and Action

    Organizations looking to tackle a time and attendance problem with employees need to document the attendance and absences and undertake a periodic review of such records to identify habitual offenders. Such a periodic review needs to focus on trends such as employees consistently calling in sick on a Friday or Monday or always being late by 5 to 10 minutes.

    When all other methods fail, the best policy is to establish a four-level system to weed out habitual latecomers and absentees.

    1. Verbal warning and close monitoring of the situation for a specified period, usually anywhere between 2 months to 6 months
    2. Serving a written memo to the employee. The memo needs to document the habitual lateness and absence, efforts taken by the company to counsel the employee, offer support, and the verbal warnings. The memo also needs to list the consequences of continuing with the habit. Many companies issue two or more written warnings before resorting to action.
    3. Suspension without pay for a specified period. Like the written warning, the suspension order should describe the habitual absence and or lateness in detail.
    4. If the employee continues with the habitual lateness or absence even after returning from suspension, the company has a good case for dismissing the employee from service.
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    Legal Implications

    Providing rewards and punishing employees for absenteeism, however, have legal implications. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FLMA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) do not allow disqualifying people who have taken FMLA leave from perfect attendance awards or bonus or punishing employees for absence when FLMA or ADA covers the reasons for such absence, even when such absence violates the organizational policy.

    FMLA allows eligible employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to overcome their own or a family member’s serious health condition. ADA requires employers to give workers unspecified time off as an accommodation for their disabilities.

    Adopting strategies to resolve time and attendance problems with employees not just reduce absenteeism but also reduce employee burnout, turnover, poor morale, and workplace negativism.

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    Reference

    Kathryn Tyler "All Present and Accounted For? - decreasing absenteeism, attendance awards and the Family and Medical Leave Act". HR Magazine. FindArticles.com. 05 Oct, 2010. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3495/is_10_46/ai_79305559/