Talent Canada
Talent Canada

Columns/Blogs Features Accommodation/Return-to-work Employee Wellness HR Technology Retention
Why ineffective absence management could be costing you more than you think

November 30, 2021
By Hope McManus

(Prostock-studio/Adobe Stock)

From time to time, your employees will need a day off. Whether you are a small family-run business, or a multi-million-dollar organization, absence will affect your workplace.

The average Canadian employee was absent from work for almost 12 days in 2020. This may sound a lot, but with a proactive attitude to absenteeism — it’s easier to manage than you think.

Absence management is important, as is being proactive when looking to reduce and manage absences effectively.

Why do employees require leave of absence?

Before you become successful at managing absences, you need to understand the different types.


Absences are classed as either authorized or unauthorized. The following are common examples:

  • public holidays
  • sick leave
  • maternity or paternity leave
  • medical appointments
  • bereavement leave.

Why is absence management important?

Being successful with your absence management is extremely important for all businesses. It minimizes the chances of having multiple staff off at the same time causing staffing issues.

Managing your employees’ absences effectively can protect your staff from a dip in productivity and morale.

One way to manage your absences effectively is by having a leave of absence policy.

Be proactive with your leaves of absence policy

Your absence management policy will help define the process your staff should follow when they require time off.

It will not only give clarity to both employee and employer — but also provide you with evidence should you need to discipline.

Make sure you proactively review your policy annually, making your staff aware of any changes you make.

The following should be included in your policy:

  • Annual leave entitlements: This makes it clear for employees, allowing them to plan their vacations and avoid unauthorized absences.
  • How to request time off: (Typically via an online booking system or paper form) By using an online system, you can make dates unavailable when a certain number of people have booked time off.
  • How to report absences: A clear absence reporting process will avoid unauthorized absences, meaning you could potentially arrange cover.
  • The process for return-to-work interviews: By proactively undertaking return-to-work interviews and opening a dialogue, you can see if there is a reason behind the absence from work. This doesn’t only improve the working relationship, but can go a long way to reducing absences.
  • How you’ll support staff returning to work: (Any extra support employees may need when returning to work) This may involve extra training if they have been absent for a while.

When an employee fails to turn up to work unauthorized, ensure you are being proactive and making a reasonable effort to contact them. It’s important you record the time and date when you attempted to reach them.

By doing the above, it shows you care about their well-being, which could encourage them to come back into work and refrain from not showing.

Absenteeism affects employee retention

The bottom line is that an unauthorized absence is a disciplinary offence. No matter how much you try, sometimes opening disciplinary procedures is unavoidable.

For a repeat absence offender, you may have to terminate their employment.

This will not only affect your overall employee turnover rate, but also leave you with the following financial outgoings:

  • paying of any outstanding financial benefits
  • hiring costs, including job advertisement and background checks
  • onboarding costs and training of a new starter.

Continual unauthorized absences can also affect other staff members.

For example, if you have a particular member of staff who is absent from work without reason, friction could be caused between teams. Employees covering for an absent team member can lead to a downturn in productivity and morale.

If employees feel over worked and undervalued, they may look for other employment.

Hope McManus is head of consultancy at BrightHR in Toronto.

Print this page


Stories continue below