Date: 09/10/2019

HR Forum: Absence Management

Damir Kovačević & Sandra Ćupurdija from the Absence Management Institute held a workshop on models for managing all forms of absence from work. They talked with HR forum members about the causes, consequences, and cost of absenteeism and the tools for managing this phenomenon.

Absenteeism is defined as the absence of workers from the work process, regardless of the cause. Although sick leave is the best-known form of absenteeism, it is not the only thing that can be managed. Absenteeism can be classed as planned (vacations, holidays, education) or unplanned (sick leave, family tragedies, natural disasters) or as micro (delay, breaks) or macro (sick leave).

The Institute’s representatives emphasized the little-known fact that abuse of sick leave is not the biggest problem, despite what most employers think, accounting for no more than 5% of absences at any company.

A key question was how absence affects businesses. Every employer wants its employees to be present, motivated and productive. Employers also want to have a good organizational culture and good employer branding. Absenteeism is the opposite of presence, and marks a significant decrease in organizational culture and the start of fluctuation.

There are various causes of absence, which can be divided into:

1. External – epidemic, social policy, unemployment;
2. Individual – Age, gender, personal traits, health status;
3. Organizational – Nature of industry, organizational culture, labor shortage, employment policy.

Employee experience shows that workers feel better about employers who care about their health and wellbeing, who provide a productive work environment where there is a trust in leadership. In cases of a decline in organizational culture and poor managerial communication with workers, workers are more likely to work despite not feeling well, take vacations when they are sick, and take sick leave due to stress, which is most often caused by staff shortages, poor management style and bad relationships at work.

Poor organizational culture leads to employers bearing the cost of compensating workers while on sick leave or vacation, paying replacement workers and providing additional education for new workers, while at the same time productivity drops throughout the organization.

The absenteeism management method indicates that dealing with this phenomenon should start with the collection of data and the identification of "controllable" absences in order to speed up the process of workers returning to work (medical intervention, advanced sick leave control) and by changing the organizational culture (management education, conversion of unplanned absenteeism into planned) with the aim of preventing future cases.
Research shows the advantages possessed by organizations with internal experts in absenteeism management:

• They successfully retain their workers (30% less fluctuation);
• They reduce total labor costs (15% lower costs);
• They improve labor productivity (22% increase in work results);
• They raise the level of organizational culture (64% less abuse of absences);
• They attract new workers (44% better employer branding).