As an HR leader, starting your week with unexpected absences can be challenging. Beyond the hit to productivity, which costs United States employers around $225.8 billion each year, excessive absenteeism can bring down team morale, disrupt teamwork, and strain relationships.

Here’s the good news: HR leaders can cut down on these impacts with effective absence management. Implementing a thoughtful system can help you turn a tricky attendance situation into an opportunity to boost workplace efficiency, morale, and team cohesion.

What is absence management?

HR leaders use absence management strategies and tools to minimize the occurrence and impact of employee absences. This involves a systematic process of managing both planned and unplanned leaves of absence

Absence management can help HR leaders proactively address potential issues, support their people, and create a more resilient workforce. This reduces the strain on all team members and contributes to overall employee wellbeing and satisfaction.

How to create an absence management policy

Let’s look at how to build an absence management policy that addresses the needs of the organization and supports your team members: 

1. Create an attendance policy 

A clear employee attendance policy provides expectations for punctuality and absences, reduces stress for team members and managers, and improves productivity and efficiency. HR leaders can use them to prevent attendance problems from escalating and even share and promote company culture

These policies often include: 

  • The company’s employee attendance policy scope
  • Definitions of standard attendance terms 
  • Attendance expectations 
  • Procedure for requesting planned time off or leave
  • Procedure for reporting unplanned time off or leave
  • Consequences of policy violations 

<<Download a free employee attendance policy template>>

2. Communicate attendance expectations 

Effectively communicating your attendance policy helps team members understand company guidelines. Review the policy during onboarding and provide updates on any changes. This keeps everyone informed and fosters a culture of accountability and transparency.

3. Use absence management software 

HR leaders use absence management software to automate absence tracking, simplify time-off requests, access comprehensive attendance reports, and manage workforce planning. Team members can request time off, clock in and out, and check time-off balances.

These tools can reduce administrative burden and enhance overall efficiency, allowing HR teams to focus on their people. 

4. Offer training and support 

Internal training can help managers understand your absence management policy and how to handle absences consistently and empathetically. You can include practical exercises during training, like role-playing, so they can practice responding to challenging scenarios.

Training team members in absence management can involve educating them on your attendance policies and how they can request or report attendance and leave.

Absence management best practices 

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With proper absence management, HR leaders can create a supportive work environment that minimizes disruptions and maintains operational efficiency. 

Here’s how:

Promote a culture of attendance

Explain how absences impact team dynamics and outcomes to encourage a commitment to attendance. HR teams can play an important role by recognizing and rewarding good attendance patterns.

Managers can lead by example by following the company policy and demonstrating the importance of punctuality and presence. This emphasizes the commitment to fair attendance policies across all levels of the organization and highlights each team member’s impact.

Support your team

Support all your team members’ wellbeing by providing access to wellness programs, mental health support, and flexible work arrangements. These resources can help tackle the root causes of absences, such as burnout or personal stressors, and help reduce absenteeism and turnover. 

Use clear policies and procedures

Documenting all attendance procedures helps reduce misunderstandings and ensures fair treatment across the organization.

HR leaders can provide clear guidelines on the accumulation and use of paid time off (PTO), explain attendance point systems (if their organization has one), and outline the steps for requesting different types of leave.

Apply policies fairly and consistently 

It’s important to apply attendance policies equally to all team members—regardless of their position or tenure. This prevents perceptions of favoritism and helps maintain trust and morale within the team.

Offer employee assistance programs (EAPs)

HR leaders can provide employee assistance programs to reduce the frequency and duration of absences. These programs can include counseling, mental health services, legal guidance, and financial advice. 

Organizations can implement EAPs to manage personal issues, foster a healthier workspace, and reduce workplace stress. This can help address the root cause of absenteeism and contribute to a thriving company culture.  

Maintain legal compliance 

Protect your team members and the organization by maintaining legal compliance. When developing your absence management program, consider the following: 

  • Sick leave laws: Some jurisdictions have laws mandating a certain amount of paid sick leave days per year. Organizations can integrate these state-specific requirements into their PTO policies to remain compliant.
  • Local laws: Local jurisdictions may have laws regarding specific types of leave, such as family leave or medical leave. If you have a global team, it’s important your attendance policy follows each jurisdiction’s requirements.
  • Return-to-work policies: Some laws can require allowing people to return to work at their original job or an equivalent position after a leave related to health or a disability unless exempted under specific circumstances.
  • Privacy and security: Organizations may follow specific security requirements to protect the confidentiality of their people’s medical or personal information. 
  • Internal company contracts: Internal organizational policies may offer leave benefits beyond what’s legally required. Teams can stay compliant by clearly communicating and applying these policies consistently and accurately.

Employers may consult with legal counsel when designing leave policies and managing complex leave situations to ensure compliance. Accurate documentation and record-keeping can also help prevent any potential disputes.

Regularly monitor and analyze attendance data

By analyzing trends in employee data, HR leaders can identify patterns that indicate underlying issues such as workplace stress or health concerns. They can use absence management tools to access real-time insights and make data-driven decisions to support their teams and reduce absences. 

Implement absence management for stronger attendance

Managing absences effectively can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. 

By implementing a strong absence management strategy, HR leaders actively safeguard the organization against potential disruptions and create a supportive environment.

Proactively managing absences helps enhance team harmony and contributes to the organization’s overall success.

Meet Bob

Bob’s absence management software is a perfect fit for modern, fast-growing businesses. HR leaders can effortlessly manage all types of leave, ensure coverage, access attendance reports, and automate workforce planning. 

But they don’t stop there. HR leaders can also use Bob for a breadth of critical HR functions, including: 

  • People Analytics: Analyze workforce data to improve decision-making
  • Core HR:  Automate HR processes, seamlessly create reports, and store all HR documentation in one easily accessible location
  • Performance Management: Systematically assess and enhance team performance with various tools for performance reviews
  • Onboarding: Streamline the integration of new hires into the company culture and processes
  • Hiring: Gain strategic insights about your people, streamline applicant tracking, and build a strong candidate pipeline
  • Compensation Management: Streamline salary reviews, bonuses, and equity allocations to ensure fair pay
  • Payroll Hub: Integrate payroll processes smoothly with HR management
  • Surveys: Gather valuable team member feedback through engagement and lifecycle surveys
  • Your Voice: Empower your people to speak up and report workplace concerns or misconduct in a safe and secure environment