Tips To Develop An Absence Management Plan To Reduce Absenteeism

Employee absences have a significant impact on an organisation and the economy. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, businesses witnessed a 22% absence rate due to Covid-19 over the past few years.

Absenteeism can include frequent absence, arriving late at work or leaving work early, taking longer breaks than regular break times, and applying for many sick leaves every year. In Australia, absenteeism cost over $32.5 billion per year to the economy.

This has made it all the more important for businesses to implement absence management best practices that include policies and processes to reduce the instances of employees going AWOL when they are expected to show up in a workplace.

An absence management plan is necessary for every organisation as it helps increase employee productivity and efficiency, thus financially benefitting employers.

How to Develop an Absence Management Plan?

When setting up policies and procedures that maximise employee presence, it is essential to factor in their intrinsic and extrinsic needs.

Do they not feel motivated when at work? Are they having trouble getting along with their team? Would other shift timings be suitable for them?

Once you have figured out these factors, it’s time to address them under a comprehensive absence management policy that is just as beneficial to them as it is to you. Here’s what you’ll need:

1.     Absence Management Policies

Every business should have a loud and clear absence management policy. Absence management explains guidelines, procedures, rules, and rights an employee has even when absent.

This policy should clearly explain the company’s objective, culture, and approach to handling and reducing the instances of absenteeism. At the same time, it also details conditions when it’s perfectly acceptable for an employee to miss work; it could be due to illness, car troubles, religious events, family emergencies, the death of a loved one, etc. Some organisations go so far as to allow mental health days as an acceptable reason to take the day off.


Another vital factor of absence management policies is to educate employees on who to and how to contact when applying for leave and tracking their late, early leaves, missed days, and extra-long break hours, along with motivating employees to boost their attendance.

HR has to enforce the absence management policy in the company on all levels. Every employee should know the procedure to follow when absent or late. The policy should also include training new employees on absence policy and tardiness. Moreover, they must understand the attendance policy: how to count leaves for PTO (paid time off) and what leaves do not count as paid leaves, etc.

Make it Real

Organisations should make the ideal attendance policy with a thorough understanding and acceptance of real-life scenarios for people in your industry. This also means following the tenets of the Workplace Gender Act 2012, providing equality, and not discriminating among employees.

Make sure to adjust your policy for all employees. HR Expert Australia can help you to create a flawless absence management policy.

2.     Track Absence

Any company or business that aims to reduce absentees must start tracking absences, late time-ins, and early time-outs. It may be good to use dedicated HR software to track these instances to have a clear and definite record.

Identify different types of absences using your absence tracking software. The many reasons could include parental leave, absence due to sickness, casual absence, and emergency leave. Set up procedures to inform and apply for each of these (or other reasons prevalent at your organisation).

When the data is available, calculate leaves rates per employee and average leaves per month; this should be a key indicator of employee performance and measure the organisation’s output with other metrics and KPIs.

Tracking absence also provides the following benefits to an organisation:

Accurate Pay

Tracking absence manually can lead to human errors, which can result in pay errors. An organisation ensures that no one is overpaid or underpaid with accurate attendance records.

This helps both employees and employers in monitoring remaining leaves and absents and then generating a report to analyse the leaves and performance.

Put A Stop to Micromanaging

With HR software monitoring and generating accurate reports, managers don’t have to micromanage the monitoring and pay giving tasks. They don’t have to work on every time-in and time-out request, either a vacation leave or a sick leave; the software tracks it all, saving managers’ time.

Employee Attendance Booster

Employees are happier when they know they don’t have to worry about manually applying for their time-in, time-out, and vacation leaves. This gives them a sense of encouragement that the company has a clean and fair attendance and leave system.

3.     Employee and Corporate Wellness Program

Today employee well-being is one of the top priorities for organisations that want to boost productivity, reduce burnout, reward creativity, and improve workplace culture.

And when you take care of all those factors, employees are more likely to want to show up at work on time no matter the circumstances at home. So, it may be a good idea to invest in the following when addressing absenteeism issues:

  • Sports and yoga sessions
  • Mental health sessions
  • Cafeteria and restrooms
  • Team-building exercises

Review the Signs

On the other hand, long working hours, stress, poor diet, and lack of activities make employees unmotivated and anxious, leading to absenteeism. If they don’t feel motivated and cared for, no amount of money can convince them to show up and deliver.

So, absent employees might indicate that something is wrong deep down with your organisation and must be fixed ASAP.

In case of sick leaves, encourage employees to take care of their health and re-join when they recover completely. These acts create a positive image in the employees’ minds that they don’t need to worry or feel guilty about taking some time off for rest and recovery.

4.     Return-to-Work Interviews

There can be many legit reasons why an employee is late or absent. They may not feel good about taking time off without informing their superiors. So when they finally do show up, they are defensive and seem too angry to want to talk about the issues.

This is your time to shine as a stellar manager and address their issues head-on in a one-on-one interview.

Return-to-work interviews are the most effective way to reduce employee absences. They help reduce the tension between employees and their superiors by welcoming the employees back into a tension-free environment.

Sit the employee down, and ask if everything is all right; let them know you are there to help them pick up the pace and facilitate them by making reasonable adjustments where necessary.

Don’t make this a formal, lengthy session with forms to fill and threats of disciplinary action. If you value the employee and want to address the cause of their absenteeism instead of the act itself, do the interview informally over lunch or coffee.

A Meaningful Conversation

The purpose is to have a meaningful and informative conversation with your employee to give you an insight into their life. Maybe some problems in the work environment might affect their physical or mental health, causing them to go AWOL.

Through dialogue, many problems can be solved and even stopped from escalating. Maybe an employee is not comfortable with shift timings or undergoing some medical treatment. They might be dealing with a divorce, a sick child, an ailing parent, a lack of appropriate transport, a bully in the workplace, and a million other issues to keep them from doing their best. Find out what it is, and help them solve it.

Organisations can alter their policies, arrange alternatives, find additional resources, and minimise absenteeism through these sessions.

Use return-to-work interviews to:

Get Better Insights into Your Employee’s Reason For Absence

As we discussed above, an employee can be absent for various reasons. A possible cause could be poor mental health or any physical injury.

It is better to let the person heal completely or help him improve his mental health before coming back to work. Identifying the nature of absence and gathering the information can help you develop a plan of action.

Create Solutions That Empower Your Staff To Do Their Best

One-on-one meetings with your employee will give you additional information that will be new and maybe surprising to you.

For example, if an employee has domestic issues like a sick child or an employee is avoiding work due to harassment within work, you will investigate and take appropriate action.

Pin Down Trends And Find Solutions Before Things Get Out Of Hand

Employees sometimes have a particular trend of being absent. For example, one specific employee takes off on Mondays or Fridays, or a specific team has stress issues due to work.

When organisations have detailed data on absenteeism trends, it will assist them in changing policies or developing new practices. 

Hold Employees Accountable And Show Them How To Be Responsible

You give a vital sign of responsibility and accountability to employees who don’t take regularity seriously through a return to work interview. Managers and HR should provide them with a warning letter or a show-cause notice.

Strict monitoring of trends and absents of an employee by managers and HR gives employees a sense of restraint to absenteeism.

Engage Managers To Be A Cohesive Force In The Workplace

According to a Gallup survey, managers are responsible for approximately 70% of the variance in the team and influence employee well-being.

Managers can either uplift the work environment and motivate the employee or even act as a reason for employees to leave the company. Train managers to lead the team effectively as they are the first people employees turn to for help in projects and briefs.

Equip your managers well with the necessary data, tools, and resources to manage their teams effectively. Employee wellness, safety, and comfortability directly affect employee absents.

If there is an absenteeism issue in a specific performance area, you need to realise that there are management issues within that particular sector.

Use Transformational Management To Reduce Absenteeism

Management plays an active and leading role in the company’s growth. One influential factor in developing a firm and reducing absenteeism is transformational leadership.

Transformational leadership is inspiring and motivating team members and employees without micromanaging.

The beauty of this management method is that the leader is passionate and motivated about the work, but they also persuade the whole team to be productive and inspirational.

Giving employees the flexibility and luxury to be creative and make their own decisions is crucial in reducing absenteeism.

5.     Have Flexible Hours

A flexible work schedule means employees and team members decide where they can work, how many hours or days they can work, or which work schedule works best. Flexible work hours don’t mean employees are entirely out of the organisation’s work policy.

A survey conducted in 2019 shows that 30% of people left their jobs because they don’t have flexible work hours. Employees can struggle to maintain their work hours complete with proper attendance, affecting their work-life balance.

We have already discussed the reasons for absents of an employee, but with flexible hours, an employee will be more efficient and regular than before.

6.     Remove Toxic Work Environment

A toxic work environment is another main reason for employee absenteeism. Employees who are harassed, discriminated against, under-appreciated, or bullied are more likely to take leaves as they want to get out of the negativity.

It is crucial to identify patterns and behaviour of your employees to see if your workplace is toxic or not. The best way to know about the ongoing company culture and work environment is to directly talk to employees or conduct a survey through an employee feedback form.

7.     Give Market Competitive Pays, Incentives, and Bonuses

When employees work hard to achieve your company’s strategic goals and find out that many people do the same job as yours but are getting more pay and benefits than you, they get demotivated.

Low pay and fewer bonuses are also a reason for low morale among employees, and they find reasons to skip work. Not giving enough attention to this issue can increase absenteeism and employee turnover.

8.     Promote Team Work

While fostering a positive work environment and promoting well-being, it is necessary to harvest a teamwork environment. Working in a team brings many benefits to individuals and the company.

Teammates help each other achieve the deadlines and cover up each other’s weaknesses. While dividing the workload according to the capabilities, make sure that the employees are happy, satisfied, and motivated for work.

Count On HR Expert Australia To Empower Your People & Processes

Each company wants to increase its revenue through employee productivity, efficiency, commitment to work, and high motivation, but these things don’t come that quickly. They result from a well-planned policy, employee well-being programs, and work-life balance.

With HR Expert Australia, you can get tons of HR-related solutions and membership packages for your organisation. Create a free account on our website, and sign up for a membership to obtain premium benefits. We’ll handle your HR issues while you focus on generating revenue.