Managing unplanned absences in the workplace

Managing unplanned absences in the workplace

Unplanned absences are a fact of life in the workplace. Whether someone falls sick or needs to care for a loved one, each person in your company will need to take unplanned leave at some point. If someone falls sick, they may take leave to manage their mental health, take care of children, or attend a personal emergency. 

Recently, we have seen more extreme effects of unplanned leave as coronavirus cases have increased across Australia. Many workplaces have found themselves short-staffed as people have fallen sick or had a loved one fall seriously ill.

If you do not have the right policies or workforce management software, unplanned leave can take a more significant toll than it needs to.

How unplanned absences impact the workplace

Costs to the business

Unplanned absences incur costs to the business in a few different ways. When an employee is absent, your company must cover that shift. You might have to pay other employees overtime to cover for absent employees.

Lost productivity also impacts business costs. If you cannot replace the absent employee, work may have to be rearranged or postponed, leading to lost productivity.

Unplanned absences create additional work for your HR department, generating higher administrative costs. If the person suddenly becomes absent for a longer period, you will have the cost of hiring and onboarding a new person.

Decreased productivity

Employees absent from work without notice can disrupt the workflow and leave their colleagues picking up the slack. Additionally, these employees may miss important deadlines or delay project completion. Ultimately, this can lead to decreased productivity and a loss of money.

When employees are not in the office, they are often unable to complete their work tasks, resulting in a backlog of work. In 2021, 34% of businesses with staff shortages cited the availability of existing employees as a key reason they were short-staffed.

Poor morale

Unplanned absences can also impact employee morale when other people pick up the slack for absentees. Especially for project-based work, employees that take unplanned absences disrupt the workflow and could put deadlines at risk of being missed. If the employees covering for them need to manage additional work and stress, they may produce lower-quality work, further impacting morale.

When people repeatedly cover absent colleagues, their stress can increase, and productivity might lessen. They may also begin feeling overworked and undervalued.

Causes of unplanned absences

Recently, unplanned absences have become a concern for many managers, and leaders as COVID-19 cases across NSW have spiked. Even outside a pandemic, illnesses, injuries and medical appointments remain key reasons for unplanned absences.

  • As the COVID pandemic has disrupted personal and professional lives, mental health problems have increased. People may need to take time off if they have struggled to maintain good mental health.
  • Parents may take unplanned leave if they need to fulfil childcare requirements; their usual caregiver might not be available on that day, or they may need to stay home and care for a sick child.
  • Workplace bullying impacts an employee’s ability to come to work. When an employee experiences workplace bullying, they may start feeling anxious or stressed, which leads to them taking time off work. They may also feel uncomfortable coming to work if they have a shift with the bully and may call in sick for those particular instances.

Strategies for managing unplanned absences

To make unplanned absences easier on you, the business, and the person taking time off, it is best to implement a few strategies for managing absenteeism.

Put policies in place to manage absenteeism

Ensure you have policies that designate how employees should inform you of their absence and if they need documentation regarding their absence upon their return to work. When onboarding employees, you should make sure they are aware of your policies in the event of an unplanned absence. For example, you may require employees to provide a doctor’s note when they return to work after taking sick leave.

Monitor why employees were absent

Unplanned absences become larger issues when one person takes a lot of unexpected leave. At these times, you need to speak with the person to pinpoint why they have taken unplanned leave and how you can reduce future absences.   

Discuss why the person is absent

Your employee likely is not absent for no reason. If you notice someone has taken a lot of unplanned leave, it is worth discussing why that is the case. Perhaps they require support for something in their personal life, need flexible childcare arrangements, are experiencing issues with colleagues, or have other issues in their personal or professional lives.

Prepare for unplanned absences with effective workforce management

One of the best ways to overcome the issues that arise from unplanned absences is to leverage workforce management software that allows you to plan for unexpected absences, track reasons for absenteeism and suggest ways to fill open shifts. Additionally, workforce management software can help you plan for future absences by forecasting staffing needs.

Workforce management software that tracks time and attendance can reduce absenteeism caused by someone committing time theft, wherein they say they are at work, but in reality, they are not.

A workforce management solution should include absence management by default. It can help you reduce the costs associated with unplanned absences by assisting in the extra HR and payroll processes that occur when someone takes time off. It should also deliver information to relevant people in the company on absenteeism.

Absence and leave management with Tambla

A comprehensive strategic workforce management solution is critical to absence and leave management. The right platform can help you cover unplanned absences, reduce the associated costs and boost morale across the organisation. So, you can optimise growth and plan for success today, tomorrow and in the future.
Visit our Workforce Management page for more on our capabilities.

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