Oh where, oh where, has my EM-ployee gone?

Employee absenteeism can be a real challenge. Excessive absences decrease your productivity, increase overtime, lower morale, and raise health and WCB premiums.

Absenteeism rates for 2015 in western Canada

  • National average absenteeism rate= 8.9 days
  • Saskatchewan average absenteeism= 10.1 days
  • Alberta average absenteeism= 7.1 days
  • BC average absenteeism= 9.0 days

Definitions for non-culpable and culpable absenteeism

Innocent absenteeism (non-culpable) consists of those absences from work for which the employee is blameless and faultless. These are those absences beyond the control of the employee. Typically these types of absences are for personal injury or illness.

Blameworthy absenteeism (culpable) are those absences from work for which the employee is at fault and is within employee’s control. For example, habitual lateness, abandonment of duties, and sick leave abuse (fabricated doctor’s notes, observed golfing while off work with sore back, etc.).

You can not discipline or terminate an employee for just cause for innocent absenteeism.

If you terminate. . .

. . .with cause for culpable absenteeism, remember to:

  • Demonstrate that the absences you are relying on actually occurred.
  • Show that you’ve gone through a progressive disciplinary process.
  • Ensure in the written warning step that you have the terminology that a reoccurrence will result in further disciplinary action up to and including termination for cause.
  • Give the employee an opportunity to genuinely correct their behaviour.
  • Ensure you are explicit about how long the performance improvement plan will be in place (i.e., three months, six months, twelve months).
  • Ensure you follow through on your commitments (i.e., follow-up, etc.).–otherwise, you may have to start over.

. . .without cause for non-culpable absenteeism (i.e., a disability that prevents them from doing their job), remember:

  • You are terminating the employee because you are unable to accommodate them with undue hardship, not as part of a disciplinary process.
  • You must prove that:
    • The employee has been absent in the past, has not shown up for work, and the absence(s) is/are excessive.
    • You can demonstrate there isn’t a reasonable prospect of that employee returning to work in the foreseeable future (i.e. medical evidence).
    • You gave the employee fair notice that if their attendance didn’t improve it would result in termination from work.

Want to get REAL about absenteeism?

  • Have a policy in place for disability (sick time) as well as for performance improvement (progressive discipline). Yes, that is two separate policies.
  • Track absences at your workplace – you can use this as a standard to determine if someone has abnormally high absenteeism.
  • Make sure the punishment meets the crime; if you have culpable absenteeism, follow your performance improvement process (i.e., written, verbal, final escalation of warnings).

Give us a call–we can help!

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