It’s 8:45 am on a Monday morning when your employee Tom calls to tell you he has the stomach flu and can’t come to work. He’s scheduled to work at 9 am. What should you do?
Ideally, employees will tell you weeks in advance when they won’t be at work, giving you ample time to plan and prepare. In the real world, however, people sleep through alarms, get into fender benders or just don’t show up. As an employer, you need to deal with every kind of absence, planned or otherwise. Here are three kinds of absences and how to handle them:
The Unplanned Absence
What It Is:
Even the world’s best employee will run into an emergency every now and then. It could be a sudden illness, last-minute canceled babysitter or car trouble that prevents your employee from coming in – and possibly missing tasks and tight deadlines.
How to Handle an Unplanned Absence:
If you get a time-off request the day of – or, if you’re lucky, the night before – don’t automatically deny it. Instead, figure out if accommodating the request is possible. Can another employee fill in? If shift-swapping is impossible, ask if the employee can come in for a half-shift or even just an hour to take care of any pressing tasks. Be warned, however: If there’s a serious emergency or illness, your employee’s focus probably won’t be on work. Even if the employee is physically present, he or she may resent being forced to come to work. Keep in mind, your employee’s absence may be protected by federal, state or local law.
The Unannounced Absence
The Mental Absence
What Is It?
Maybe an employee is about to go on vacation, or perhaps he or she is dealing with a difficult private issue. Either way, the employee is physically present but isn’t focused on work.
How to Handle a Mental Absence
If this isn’t a regular occurrence, try to be patient with the employee. Encourage him or her to do menial tasks or busy work during this time, if possible. For ongoing lack of focus, explore any underlying issues, such as disengagement, low morale or something more serious.
Additional Options for a No-Call or No-Show Employee:
If an employee’s absences become excessive, it may be necessary to address the behavior, including discipline, suspension and possible termination.
Disciplinary action may include a verbal warning, written warning, suspension, and if no improvement is made, termination of employment.
Benefits of an Attendance Policy and Careful Tracking
It’s important to create an attendance policy that outlines attendance expectations and how issues such as tardiness and call-outs will be handled. This type of policy helps establish consistency by defining employee call-out procedures, as well as the company’s position on unscheduled and/or chronic absenteeism.
Using an online solution such as TrackSmart Scheduling can help you track employee attendance and manage schedules so your shifts are always covered — regardless of unplanned and unannounced absences.
What It Is:
A shift starts, but there’s no phone call, no message, and no employee.
How to Handle an Unannounced Absence:
First things first: Check with that employee’s immediate supervisor or coworkers to make sure he or she didn’t swap the assigned shift or notify someone else of an emergency. Next, reach out to the missing employee to find out when or if he or she will be coming in. If the employee will miss the entire shift, document the absence and handle it according to your company’s policies. Then try to do damage control by checking if anyone else can cover the shift or by assigning duties to present employees.