It’s the morning after Mardi Gras, and Joe calls in sick. You were expecting it—after all, he was sick the Friday before a long weekend, and the Monday after the big game. Joe’s not alone – 2007 research from time and attendance software provider Kronos suggested that approximately 7 million U.S. workers call in “sick” after the Super Bowl each year.
While employees may not realize the consequences of their behavior to the organization, excessive absences have a significant impact on workplace productivity. In a small business, these effects are even more noticeable, because the size of the company means the work can’t always be redistributed among other employees. And no matter the size of the company, morale is affected when coworkers have to pick up the slack of a routinely absent worker. But by dealing with attendance issues as soon as they arise, managers can control the issue and reduce the negative effects on the business.
Step One: Documentation
Record the employee’s absences to see if any obvious trends or patterns exist. It can be helpful to create a chart to record the days, or use specific colors to annotate a printed monthly calendar. Visually representing the leave will help you identify if a pattern of absences is occurring—and it can also be a reality check for the employee to see his leave documented in that way.
Check if he always calls out on the same days, before or after the weekend, or around major events. Determine how long the pattern has been occurring and see if you can identify the reason. More than one employee’s absences have conveniently coincided with the home games of the local baseball team.
Step Two: Consider the Family Medical Leave Act
Has the employee given you an excuse for his absences? If so, review the reasons to see if they are covered by the Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA. Occasional sniffles and the common cold don’t qualify—but if your employee is suffering from migraines, he is likely to be entitled to family medical leave. Even if you don’t know the reason, a pattern of absences might indicate that the employee could qualify for intermittent leave. Give him the FMLA certification form for his doctor to complete.
Companies with 50 or more employees—or who have employed 50 or more workers for at least 20 weeks within the current or previous calendar year—are required to provide unpaid, protected leave to eligible staff members. The employee must have been employed for at least 12 months, worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months, and be located at a worksite where at least 50 other company employees are also employed within a 75-mile radius.
Step Three: Meet with the Employee
Once you’ve prepared the chart and gathered the relevant paperwork, set a time to meet with the employee. Choose a private location and schedule a time when you won’t be interrupted.
- Conversation Tip Prepare the employee for the meeting by letting him know what you plan to discuss: “Joe, I’d like to meet with you at 3 today, in my office. I have some concerns about your attendance that I need to discuss with you.”
Tell the employee you’ve noticed he’s been absent frequently, and explain the effects his attendance has on the company as a whole.
- Conversation Tip“Joe, when you’re out, customers notice delays, and your coworkers have to take on the extra work. It makes it difficult for us to get the job done the way we need to.”
Share the chart with him and ask if he, too, notices a pattern to the leave. Ask him if there is an explanation for the pattern of absences. Keep a neutral tone and remain calm, avoiding judgments or accusations.
- Conversation Tip“As your supervisor, I keep records of your leave requests. I’d like you to take a look at this chart—it seems to me there’s a pattern to your unscheduled absences. Can you tell me why you’ve been absent on so many Monday mornings?”
Listen to the employee’s response and evaluate the situation. Provide him with any relevant paperwork, such as the FMLA certification form, relevant workers compensation papers if he alleges an injury caused on the job, or a referral to the employee assistance program if it’s appropriate and your company uses one.
Step Four: Potential Accommodations
Sometimes the employee will reveal a reason for leave that may be protected by either the FMLA or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For example, if the employee provides care for a sick or disabled relative and is required to transport them to treatment on Wednesday mornings. The treatment center doesn’t open until 8:00 a.m.— the time the employee is due to start work. As a result, the employee is late or calls in every Wednesday. A situation like this can be easily accommodated in most workplaces by adjusting his start time to 8:15 or 8:30. However, in certain cases—perhaps where the worker is the only employee, required to open the doors for business at 8:00—an unreasonable hardship might occur. Carefully evaluate all possible options for accommodation on a case-by-case basis.
- Conversation Tip“I want to work with you to resolve this problem. What suggestions do you have for making sure the issue doesn’t continue? Is there anything we can do to help you achieve it?”
Step Five: Requiring Improvement
If the employee does not provide a justified or protected reason for his attendance problems, inform him of the consequences of continued absenteeism. Make sure he realizes that continued excessive or undocumented absences could lead to disciplinary action, and even cost him his job. Consider requiring the worker to produce a doctor’s note for each unscheduled absence from the workplace, otherwise he will be considered absent without leave. Put this requirement in writing, or include it in a performance improvement plan*, with other documented expectations for improvement, such as calling in to speak to a live person, and reducing the number of unscheduled absences. Review the plan periodically—at 30, 60 and 90 days—to determine if the employee’s attendance has improved. This isn’t a permanent solution—once a sustained improvement has been observed, you can remove the verification requirement or graduate the employee from the performance plan.
- Conversation Tip“From now on, I’m instructing you to bring a doctor’s note every time you call out sick. We’ll meet again in 30 days to review your progress and I’ll let you know then if this requirement will continue.”
Step Six: Disciplinary Action
If you’ve ruled out FMLA and ADA, and the employee still fails to improve, despite counseling, performance improvement plans and any accommodations you provide, it’s time to take further disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from employment. If you discover the employee was dishonest about his leave, this is also a reason for discipline.
Things to Consider:
- Make sure your company has a strong sick leave policy, emphasizing that verification may be required.
- Check that employees are aware of the call-in requirements.
- Lead by example. You can’t expect your employees to adhere to a strict attendance policy if you continually flout it yourself.
Don’t discipline an employee with an attendance problem by suspending him—it’s not usually an effective resolution to the problem.
Note: With business management in mind, we understand that our readers not only need compliance topic blogs, but office communications as well. This entry was previously published on our HR Tips Newsletter. This is just one of the many benefits we offer to our Compliance Management Service members. Learn more here: http://www.laborlawcenter.com/c-211-compliance-management-services.aspx
US Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao is doing her part to eliminate discrimination in the workplace. Chao recently presided over the Sixth Annual Asian Pacific American Federal Career Advancement Summit in Washington D.C. Held on May 3, 2007 the event boasted a record number of attendees. The event highlighted federal job opportunities throughout Alabama and the nation for residents of Asian Pacific descent.
Every employer knows that discrimination is illegal under the Alabama discrimination laws. Yet, too few do anything to actively prevent discrimination. The recent summit included participation by the Federal Asian Pacific American Council, the Social Security Administration, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Other summit partners included the US Depart of Justice, the US Department of Transportation, The US Treasury, The US Department of Defense, the US Department of Energy, the US Department of Agriculture and the US Department of Education.
The summit was held in cooperation with the US Office of Personnel Management. Its goal was to attract minority employees, while helping Asian Pacific Americans in the federal government build their career skills. The event included a plenary session, executive coaching by senior managers, and a number of workshops. An exhibit hall provided resources, and personal motivational testimonies provided inspiration and tips on how to progress in the workplace. The ten workshops included topics such as developing management potential, attracting effective employees and keeping top talent. For those new to the workforce, workshops included skills training in resume writing and interviewing.
The first annual summit was held in 2002 with just one federal partner and 150 attendees. This year, a record 1,300 people registered for the event, setting a new record. There were 31 exhibitors this year, many of whom were highlighting employment opportunities at their agencies. Asian Pacific Americans currently comprise 4.8% of the federal workforce.
Secretary Chao is the first Asian American woman to serve as a cabinet secretary. She leads the Department of Labor, which employs a record number of Asian Pacific Americans. Chao has served in that position longer than any other Secretary of Labor since the Eisenhower Administration. She is the second longest-serving woman in the slot. Since 1950, the average tenure of a Secretary of Labor has been about 3 years. Of the 24 U.S. Secretaries of Labor, six have been women. Five of those six have been appointed since 1987.
One of the newest federal agencies has joined one of the largest human resource professional associations.
The goal: to provide more work for Alabama workers with disabilities in the 21st-century workplace.
The agency is ODEP, or the Office of Disability Employment Policy. The association is SHRM, or the Society of Human Resource Managers. Together their mission is to improve training, recruitment, and education of workers with disabilities, and promote dialogue on the hiring of persons with disabilities. It is the first such alliance for ODEP.
The job prospects have improved recently for disabled workers, according to ODEP. Yet they still represent a large talent base that is going unused by the labor market.
Thanks to this new partnership, Alabama workers with disabilities will find more training, outreach, technical assistance, and education in their futures. Information, access to resources, and guidance should all be enhanced by the new teamup.
“This alliance formalizes the relationship we have had with SHRM,” according to Roy Grizzard, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy, “benefiting SHRM as it serves its membership with the resources ODEP brings to the table and offering ODEP the opportunity for broader contact with human resource professionals.”
What are the two organizations involved, and what are their missions?
The federal Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) is a Labor Department policy agency. It was formed with the purpose of making certain that people with disabilities are fully involved in the 21st century workforce. It was formed in 2001 when Elaine L. Chao, U.S. Secretary of Labor, gave the authority and responsibility for the mission to the assistant secretary for disability employment policy.
The Society of Human Resource Professionals (SHRM) was formed in 1948. With 205,000 members, 550 affiliated chapters, and membership in more than 100 countries, it is the world’s largest association of human resource managers. Its purpose is to provide key resources to its professional base.
The labor law surrounding new hires in each state is different, thanks to a law passed by the federal government a few years back. The law makes it the rule that all employers—even those just with one employee, all the way up to massive multinationals—must report each and every new hire to a specific state agency, designated by each state in the manner set out by each state. Like I said, each state’s hiring labor laws are different.
The reason behind this new law is kind of part interesting, part sensible. The first reason for the law—which all states had to have in place no later than October 1998—was to catch any workers trying to pull off unemployment fraud. The other reason for the law change was to try to track folks who owed child support.
For the employer in Alabama, though, what does the law mean? Basically, it means that you better have all of your new hire’s forms in order as soon as they start working. Employers have 20 days under the general federal statute from the start of the employee’s hiring to report information on that person, so all of those human resource hiring forms—such as the application, the reference checks, and the wage deduction forms—should be organized and stored for each new hire.
Under the Alabama law, though, employers better have even a surer grip on all of their human resource new hire forms. In Alabama, the state gives employers only seven days to get in the necessary info about new hires. If you fail to do so, you could be fined up to $25 for each violation.
All of the new hire reports in Alabama must include the employee’s name, social security number, first day of work, and address in order to meet the labor law.