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Don’t let unexpected absenteeism damage your business

Ask most employees what they look forward to most in the year and the answer would most likely be going on holiday… although in these Covid times it might be Margate rather than Mauritius! While scheduled annual leave is allowed – and even encouraged – so that employees can relax and recharge their batteries, unauthorised or frequent absenteeism can be tricky to manage.

 

There are many legitimate leave days that employees are entitled to by law, including annual leave, maternity leave, family responsibility leave and sick leave. Recently, two new categories of paid leave and sick leave relating to Covid-19 came into being as well. As of 11 June 2021, an employer must give employees paid time off to get the Covid-19 vaccine – this should not be regarded as sick leave but as a form of special leave. Not only that, but if an employee suffers side effects as a result of the vaccination, the employer must allow the employee to take paid sick leave. In this case, a Covid-19 vaccination certificate can replace a doctor’s note.

 

Absenteeism is a growing problem

Generally, leave can be prepared for, or at least managed. But absenteeism – when an employee is off work without permission, especially when this is frequent – can cause huge issues for companies. According to a study done by Occupational Care South Africa (OCSA), 15% of South Africans are absent from work every day, costing the economy billions of rands every year. And while absenteeism is a global problem, in South Africa the numbers are significantly higher.

The reasons for absenteeism are diverse but can include substance abuse, chronic disease such as hypertension and diabetes, mental illness, personal issues, transport problems, workplace bullying, lack of motivation or boredom.

 

The widespread impact of absenteeism

Surveys have shown that poor attendance by employees significantly affects both co-workers and management. An unplanned absence adds to the workload of often already frazzled co-workers, who must cover duties to keep the business running. They may need to put their own job responsibilities on hold, resulting in decreased productivity or a drop in the level of customer service.

 

And it’s not just productivity that takes strain. Workers who keep having to deal with the consequences of a colleague’s absenteeism may experience increased levels of stress and possibly even a decline in their own health, contributing to overall lower morale. They might feel resentful that their workload has increased because of people who are constantly off work, especially if it is perceived that the situation is not being properly managed. Eventually these issues can lead to further absenteeism, perpetuating the problem.

 

Not a one-size-fits-all solution

Just as the reasons for absenteeism are complex and specific to each company, so is the case with solutions to the problem. The starting point for addressing absenteeism is to analyse the absenteeism trends and dynamics specific to the workplace. With that done, the company must then determine what the main underlying causes are, take steps to remedy them and put processes in place to avoid future problems.

With absenteeism trends in South Africa on an upward trajectory, though, companies need to have a back-up plan for when absenteeism does raise its head. And with Covid-19 an aggravating factor that is not likely to go away any time soon, businesses could find themselves short of staff for weeks or even months on end. The loss of productivity of an overburdened team carries a much higher price than the cost of employing temporary staff to take on extra work when needed. At Quest we have the expertise to manage large and small contingent workforces, with large pools of readily available staff who can be called on sites within a 12-24 hour waiting period.

 

By Lee Young – Managing Executive at Quest Staffing Solutions

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