If absenteeism is increasing in your workplace, you need to take action to address it before it builds into a culture of absence.

Be Proactive

Start by being proactive with all team members. A good manager always touches base with their employees when they return from a sick day just to see how they are feeling. Aside from making sure that the employee is fit to work and hasn’t returned too early from genuine illness, it also reminds people that absence is always noticed.

Consistency Matters

If you have clearly articulated policies and procedures around absence including form requirements and medical certificates, ensure they are applied consistently across all managers and staff. Inconsistent application can cause problems with morale and can trigger increased rather than decreased absenteeism.

Individual patterns

If the absenteeism problem is with a specific individual, then take them aside to discuss the pattern.

Run a report of all their absences for the previous 12 months, so you have clear facts to discuss with the person, for example, if the person always takes Mondays or Fridays off.

Go into the meeting with an open mind, to genuinely explore and understand why their absenteeism may be increasing. There may be personal situations that you need to consider, or there may be conflict within the team or with the manager.

Review your absence policy with the individual to ensure they clearly understand the requirements of your business.

A reminder that special provisions apply if the person is away for an extended period of time. Check out the Long Periods of Leave fact sheets from the Fair Work Ombudsman for more details.

Workplace Strategies

If absenteeism is increasing across a team or generally across the workplace, you may need larger intervention strategies.

Look at how the work roles are defined to ensure roles are clear, and the work that is completed is interesting and varied. Consider job enrichment and clearer career paths for individuals.

If team conflict or communication issues are triggering increased absence, then consider team development strategies to build teamwork and enhance communication.

Management Strategies

If you identify that managers or supervisors are contributing to the issue within a team through their leadership approaches, then focus on enhancing their management skills.

This development needs to move beyond management theory and into the realm of individual communication skills, team development and cooperative relationship skills, and conflict resolution skills. The so-called “soft skills” are the ones that make the most difference to workplace team success.

Absenteeism is not something that you can ignore. If you see a pattern or trend emerging, then you need to identify the cause and then take action to resolve the issue.

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