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Managing Unplanned Absences

Tuesday March 5th 2013

A 2010 study conducted by Mercer states that “incidental unplanned” absences result in a 19 percent net loss of productivity. That is on top of the increased costs, such as possible overtime, and the negative morale of the workers asked to pull double duty.

image-3There are many reasons why an employee may call in to work for unplanned time off. Absenteeism can range from illnesses, family issues (e.g., daycare or taking care of a family member), personal issues or just feeling entitled to the time off. According to a CCH 2007 Unscheduled Absence Survey, 13 percent of people who called in to work cited being stressed out as main the reason for being absent. Slightly more than one in four absences falls into the “mental health day” category.


In order to see the impact and cost of unscheduled absences, an employer should ask a few questions:

  • Who is absent?
  • When were they absent?
  • How often are they absent?

When an employer has a well implemented time and attendance system, it will help determine if absenteeism patterns are occurring. A time and attendance system can assist by identifying employees that are not only absent more frequently but also which employees have to pick up the slack.


There are two methods an employer can use to help employees better manage their time off and reduce the instances of calling in for the day.


Time off bank

Some companies have found success in implementing a range of flexible work options to help balance the time between work and personal time. For example, a paid time off system to combine vacation, sick and personal time into one “bank” that allows the employee to allocate how to use that time.


Point system

The other method is a point system. An employer would assign a value to the type of absence (e.g., unplanned absence = 1 point, absent without call in = 2 points, late 30 minutes = half a point, etc.). The employer then defines thresholds as to when disciplinary action would take place. This helps the supervisor as it is automatic and unbiased.


Just remember that absences can be an indicator of a wide array of related factors that are crucial to making the workforce more productive. Managing unplanned absences will reduce your costs and have a positive impact on employee morale.


How do you manage unplanned absences? Do you use any of the above methods to reduce employees from calling in absent for the day? Please comment below.

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