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Absenteeism and Attendance of Employees

Employee absenteeism is one of the most common workplace problems facing employers in today’s workplace. Legitimate illnesses still account for the majority of employee absences, but some studies have shown that less than one-third of absences from the workplace are related to poor health. Most employers offer their workers vacation, sick leave, paid time off, or other kinds of paid and unpaid leave.

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Federal and state employment laws regarding employee leave
Four federal laws critical to employee absenteeism issues are: the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII).

In addition to federal laws, almost all states have workers’ compensation laws that cover on-the-job illnesses and injuries. Most state workers’ compensation laws protect workers who must take time off from work because of their injuries. Some states even have their own laws regarding family and medical leave.

Employers should be careful how they deal with absenteeism by exempt employees. Don’t dock an exempt employee’s paycheck for missing less than one full day of work because it could destroy her exemption and entitle her to time-and-a-half for all overtime she has worked in the past or works in the future. The only exception is if the absence is covered by the FMLA.

Two other attendance issues protected by law are employees called to jury duty and employees who request time off for religious reasons. State and federal laws generally require employers to give workers leave when called to serve on a jury. And employers may have to bend their attendance rules to accommodate a worker’s religious practices or beliefs.

State-by-state comparison of 50 employment laws in all 50 states, including employee leave laws

Reducing employee absenteeism and abuse of employee leave policies
One of the most frustrating parts of administering attendance policies for employers is the incredible amount of abuse that takes place. A key to curbing abuse is to have an absenteeism policy that clearly sets forth which absences are allowed, and what behavior will subject the employee to discipline. Absenteeism problems can range from employees not calling in or not showing up for their shifts, taking sick leave when well, and exhausting their available leave every month, to requesting extra time off and establishing patterns of abuse. For these non-protected absences employers can, and should, discipline their employees.

A company’s policy should be clearly written and disseminated to all employees. In addition, the employer should make sure to train all supervisors and managers to ensure that the policy is being fairly applied. It’s a good idea to spot check attendance issues in every department to make sure that company rules are being fairly imposed.

Audit your workplace policies and procedures, including employee leave with the Employment Practices Self-Audit Workbook