When running a company, it’s unavoidable that your employees will require a leave of absence from time-to-time. This is the same for a small family-run business, or a multi-billion dollar company. Absence management can prove to be tricky; it isn’t just a case of when staff are absent and how many.
In 2020 throughout Canada, the average employee was absent from their workplace for almost twelve days (Statistics Canada 2021).
In this blog post we’ll briefly cover how you can be proactive when it comes to managing your absences and how it can save you money. We’ll also touch upon the benefits that managing your absences correctly can bring.
What are workplace absences?
Workplace absences are when a member of staff doesn’t show up for work. These absences are recorded as either authorized or unauthorized. There are many reasons why an employee may be absent from work, among them:
- Public holidays
- Sick leave
- Medical appointments
- Bereavement leave
- Maternity and paternity leave
How can I be proactive with my absence management?
There are many ways that you can be proactive when it comes to managing your employee absences – and the benefits are plain to see. It ensures you’ll rarely be understaffed during busy periods – for example at weekends and over holidays.
You’ll be able to make sure you have enough staff to cover, meaning less chance of them feeling overworked and potentially burnt out. Employee burnout can lead to a negative effect on morale and productivity.
Ways to be proactive:
- Have a transparent leave of absence policy in place: Your policy should make it clear to employees how to book and who to report absences to. As well as their entitlements and vacation/sick pay rules. Make sure you include any absence-related disciplinary procedures, this’ll avoid any conflict in the future and create transparency. Make sure this is included in the employee handbook and signed by both parties before employment commences.
- Undertake return-to-work interviews: When employees return to work, have a one-to-one discussion. This will help to solve any problems they’re facing and will build up a working relationship. Make sure you try to contact them whilst they’re absent from work to see if there’s anything more you can do.
- Build a culture focused on employee well-being: Create a happy and safe workplace culture. A happy culture will mean employees will be less likely to want to stay away. Hold regular one-to-one meetings to ensure employees are happy with their work.
How can a successful absence management system save you money
Being successful with your absence management means you’ll have a happier workforce, who will be committed to the company. By getting to the root cause of why an employee has been absent can ensure you retain them and lower your employee turnover rate.
Costs of employee absences:
- Wages to be paid to any absent employees.
- The quality of work and productivity dropping as a result of overtime fatigue or understaffing.
- Poor morale amongst staff who are having to cover or do extra work for absent staff.
- Potential safety issues for covering staff – if not properly trained to do certain jobs.
It’s vital you are proactive with your employee happiness. Employee unhappiness could lead to staff being absent, with potential resignations. Rehiring staff has economic costs which will hit you financially:
- Advertising: The cost of placing your job advert online, as well as any marketing such as pay per click.
- Onboarding costs: Costs of any employee uniform, equipment, benefits packages, and any training packages that may be required.
- Interviewing time: The amount of time needed to conduct interviews, check CV’s, getting the correct references and selecting the candidate.
- Time taken to train new employees: The amount of time taken to train new employees to learn the role. This could be anything from two weeks to six months.
It’s important you encourage your employees to take their annual leave throughout the year and make them aware of their entitlements. This will stop a potential back log of requests during holidays.
Employment/labour standards legislation in Canada requires you to provide employees with at least two weeks annual leave for every year of employment and increase vacation entitlements depending on the length of employment (the requirements vary depending on the jurisdiction). Failing to do is a violation of the law.
Enforcement of employment standards
Many employers regularly – knowingly and unknowingly – contravene sections of employment/labour standards legislation. Common violations are not providing the required leaves, failing to give an employee a day off with pay on a public holiday or annual vacations.
In Ontario, an ESA officer can impose one or more of the following penalties:
- Compliance order. An ESA officer can order an employer or other person to stop contravening a provision and to take certain steps in order to comply with a provision. The order may also specify a date by which the employer or other person must comply with the order. These orders do not require payment of wages or compensation.
- Order to pay. An ESA officer can order an employer to pay an employee up to $10,000 for a violation of the ESA (and more in some cases)
- Ticket, notice of contravention, or prosecution. An ESA officer can issue a ticket for less serious ESA violations. A ticket carries a set fine of $295, with a victim fine surcharge added to each set fine, plus court costs. Alternatively, the fine for a notice of contravention is up to $1,000. For some violations the fine is $250, $500, $1,000 for the first, second, and third violation, respectively, in a three year period for each employee. Finally, an employer can be prosecuted and ordered to pay a fine, and/or imprisoned for contravening the ESA. An employer can be fined up to $100,000 for a first conviction. If an employer has already been convicted of an offence under the ESA, it can be fined up to $250,000 for a second conviction. For a third or subsequent conviction, an employer can be fined up to $500,000.
In Alberta, failure to meet the minimum standards may result in enforcement actions through an investigation process by Employment Standards. Failure to comply with Employment Standards or enforcement action may lead to an administrative penalty and possible prosecution.
In British Columbia, the penalty can go up to $10,000 for failing to follow ESA minimum standards.
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