Best Practices for Unplanned Absences

Best Practices for Unplanned Absences

In a perfect world, you would know when your employees were taking time off weeks or even months in advance. Unplanned absences, unlike planned absences, can throw a curve ball at you.

The impact of absenteeism is real and has tangible effects, not just on managers, but the whole organization. An unplanned absence disrupts organizations and adds to everyone’s workload, it can also cause a lot of stress because deadlines still need to be met. This leaves managers scrambling to find a replacement or having to shell out overtime to make up for lost productivity.

Absent employees impact an organization’s productivity, revenue, and costs.  Absenteeism contributes to employee turnover, increased labor costs when replacement workers need to be hired, and to other management and hiring costs. The Integrated Benefits Institute, which represents major employers and business coalitions, reports that absenteeism ascribed to poor employee health costs the U.S. economy about $576 billion a year.

Although you may not be able to predict when employees are going to call out, you can implement some absence management practices that help you better handle the curveball thrown your way.

Implement an Absence Reporting Procedure

Life happens and sometimes having to call out of shift is unavoidable. Having an outlined absence reporting procedure that employees need to follow if they are unable to attend work could help you better plan for a day where you are short staffed. The absence reporting procedure should include requiring employees to speak to their manager and explaining why they cannot attend work.

Employees should also be aware that failure to follow the correct absence notification procedure could affect payments and could be a disciplinary offense.

Once you have an absence reporting procedure you should make sure every employee is clear about the absence reporting procedure – and has a copy in writing.  

Have a backup plan ready

Take the guesswork out of getting the right person to fill in, in advance. It would be simple if you could just pull any one of your other employees to fill in for an unplanned absence.

You need to look at the skills, certifications, etc. required for the shift and then generate a list of qualified available employees to call in. Ensure that your automated HR system is set up to identify the available employees with the right skills and certifications that can potentially take the unexpected open shift you’re trying to fill.

Let employees help you

A strong HR system will have the capability to allow employees to perform a variety of different actions through self-service, like swapping shifts or requesting coverage, all while suggesting available employees to take on those shifts who meet the criteria around skills, certifications, minimum/maximum hours, budgets, and more. Ideally, like updating their contact information, employees would have the ability to perform shift swap and coverage requests both on a desktop or on the go through their mobile phone. This is a win-win because your employees can attain more of a work/life balance and you have less unexpected absences to deal with – all while having the peace of mind knowing that you have the right person with the right skills working the right shifts.

Not all absences can be predicted but with the correct practices in place, you can alleviate the burden of absenteeism.