This can be genuine illness, or sometimes it is the employee is under performance management, or generally disengaged with the workplace.
Managing excessive absenteeism
Most absenteeism is genuine, and it is important to try and understand the reasons for the absences first. This will enable you to support the employee and get to the bottom of any workplace issues (for example, perhaps there is bullying occurring). Showing some genuine interest and empathy will go a long way to forming a trusting relationship and increasing engagement with your employee.
In addition, a few easy practices can really make a difference:
- have clear policies in place for taking personal leave, including what evidence you require and when it is required AND follow them consistently
- Managers should make sure personal leave applications are submitted. Either make a note in your calendar, or if you have a self service system there should be an option for “manager notified leave”. Correct records are a must if trying to manage excess absenteeism
- have an EAP provider (Employee Assistance Program) and remind your staff member of how to contact EAP
It is important to be pro-active with absenteeism to prevent potentially major issues later on. Although there is a provision within the Fair Work Act where termination for absenteeism is not considered automatically unlawful, that is only where an employee has exhausted their paid leave and has been on unpaid leave for three months or more within a twelve month period. It is certainly an area with many risks, and care should be taken!
Where there is ongoing absenteeism, you should talk to employee about gaining permission to communicate with their medical practitioner to understand what reasonable adjustments can be made and their return to work prognosis. This will help with your WHS obligations and also enable a pro-active open dialogue with the employee, rather than wondering and waiting for the next medical certificate to arrive.
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