The Attendance Game Pits Employees and Employers

William Hubbartt

Most individuals make an honest effort to get to work or school or other activity regularly and on time. In spite of our best efforts, there can be an occassional incidence of absence due to illness or other emergency.

But, it seems that a select few prefer to play the "attendance game." The "attendance game," is played in every office, store, plant, warehouse, job site and all points in between. Every workplace seems to have at least one individual or more who is a master at playing this game.

This individual finds creative reasons for taking yet another day off from work. Flu symptoms, a flat tire, a child care issue, court date, slid in a ditch that snowy day, the latest seasonal virus, dental appointment, dead battery, . . . the list goes on and on.

At the other end of the attendance tug-o-war, the employer expects employees to report to work regularly and on time. Daily work activities, care of customers, provision of services or products, or other work activites become disrupted or burdensome for the remaining employees who must fill in to assume extra tasks to cover for the absent coworker.

Some employers take a flexible approach tolerating absences as long as the practice does not become too excessive. Other organizations tend to take a firmer stance by defining detailed procedures for controlling absences. And some organizations attempt to define family friendly benefits that permit certain absences and even provide paid absence benefits.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 57 percent of private sector workers have access to a paid sick leave benefit. A smaller number, only 37 percent have access to a paid personal leave benefit.

These paid leave benefits generally provide eligible employees with a specified number of days of paid absence for a particular purpose upon calling in to report absence or scheduling time off in advance. But employers often lament that employees take advantage of paid absence benefits.

Common employer complaints include taking sick days when the employee is not really sick, or taking more days off than allotted. And for those individuals who are not eligible for such benefits, the some employees ask the employer to charge the absence as a vacation day.

To help control excessive absences, some employers are redefining paid absence benefits into a paid time off benefit that combines vacation, sick days and personal days. Other employers attempt to define attendance control procedures limiting number of absences or defining some sort of "no-fault" attendance control policy that tracks absences without considering the reason for absence and provides for punative action when the number of absences becomes excessive.

The "attendence game" provides a challenge to every employer trying to strike a balance between accommodating employee needs and maintaining organizational productivity. Human resources specialists recommend that the employer develop a workplace culture that encourages reliable on time worker attendance together with policies that use a uniform corrective action when attendance guidelines are abused.

William S. Hubbartt is a human resources and privacy consultant and author of 8 books on management and privacy issues. 
Copyright 2007. All Rights Reserved.


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