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Managing Attendance

Managing attendance is more than keeping track of days that employees are absent! Managing attendance also means taking positive actions to reduce the number of days lost. Effective January 1st, 2017 new record keeping rules require employers to make and keep employment records for:

a)    Paid holiday pay due or paid to an employee;

b)    Period of a leave of absence of an employee as well as the reason for the absence; and

c)    Dates of any suspensions, dismissals or layoffs of an employee and the dates of such notices.

A certain level of employee absence is unavoidable in the workplace, as people are ill, attend to family responsibilities, or feel uninspired. Employers are able to reduce the amount of absence caused by the workplace. They can also reduce absence due to sickness by proactive management. Small and medium sized employers can learn from HR practitioners who are managing absence.

A good work culture is critical for the success of any action taken to manage absence. When employees feel respected and engaged in the workplace, they are absent less often. The main driver of employee engagement is good management, which is key to employees feeling valued and involved.

An attendance policy needs to emphasize both preventing ‘illegitimate’ absence while also providing support to those who are ‘legitimately’ absent and helping them return to work.

Here are some suggestions for steps you can take to encourage good attendance and to reduce the amount of absence in your workplace.

Measures to Support Attendance

Measures to Support Attendance


Good communication policy.

Decide how you will deal with attendance and absence, and clearly communicate that to employees.

Health promotion.

Raise awareness of health issues, encourage lifestyle changes, and maintain a healthy work environment.

Occupational Health Services (OHS)

Engage occupational health practitioners including physicians, hygienists, psychologists, ergonomic experts and occupational health professionals to help you evaluate reasons for absence, assist in planning returns to work and promoting good health.

Employee Assistance Programs

Provide financial support or referral to EAP providers who can help your employees deal with family, financial, addiction, psychological and other issues.

Flexible working

Allow flexible start and finish times, job-sharing, term-time contracts, irregular hours, moving from full to part time working, and other such measures.

Financially rewarding attendance.

Reward employees with good attendance with incentives such as bonuses or eligibility for prizes.

Recognizing good attendance.

Recognize good attendance in personal letters, company newsletters, or bulletin board announcements.

“Mental Health” days

Allow a limited number of days that can be taken by phoning in on the day when individual feels they cannot face work but are not ill enough to merit a sick day. These can be deducted from annual leave.

Medical Services on-site.

Provide some health related services on-site; e.g. health checks, back pain clinics and flu vaccinations.

Measures to Reduce Absence

Measures to Reduce Absence


Manage absence

Actively manage all absences.

Return to work interviews

Provide accurate, timely and accessible information on absence and its causes. Talk to the employee on the day they return to work after every period of sickness. Welcome the individual back, check they are recovered, review absence record and provide opportunity to discuss any underlying problems contributing to absence.

Use of trigger points

Put in place a specific level of absence at which personal absence review becomes essential and possible disciplinary action is considered.

Stay in touch during absences.

Stay in touch with employees during short and long term absences. Have procedures in place for each, and communicate them clearly to all staff.

Attendance criteria used for selection.

Screen potential employees’ past attendance records before offering employment.