Managing Absenteeism

By dessquire, 22 February, 2010

Absenteeism has become one of the greatest problems facing employers. Many factors assist in compounding the problem one of which is the impact of HIV/AIDS and its consequences.

The impact of absenteeism on other employees has severe consequences that result in low moral and unhappiness. Increased workload, pressure and responsibility due to the absence of colleagues are taking their toll on employees and leading to the resignation of essential people.

The Human Resources costs that result from having to replace staff, re-train staff or rotate staff is another issue that is costly for companies.

Loss of productivity, low morale and loss of essential employees will ultimately lead to a loss of business, a diminishing client base, a loss of sales revenue and potentially the loss of a business.

The time to act is now. Consider the long-term impact of today’s absenteeism and make a decision to address the problem now.

1. Ensure that all employees are familiar with and fully aware of your standing on the issue of absenteeism.

2. Reinforce the Basic Conditions of employment as related to leave and what the employee is entitled to

3. Take swift remedial action when abuse is apparent

4. Ensure all staff are aware you are addressing the issue and have the interest of all at heart

5. Ensure there are clear-cut policies in place to deal with absenteeism

6. Explain to staff the consequences of abuse of leave regulations

7. Ensure all employees are treated equally and fairly

The issue is absenteeism and not HIV/AIDS. Deal with the problem and not the cause. Treat all employees alike and be fair to all.

What you should do

·Consider what impact absenteeism will have on your company. From the above you can estimate the cost to your company. This is important in order to be able to make provision for potential additional expenses.

·Make sure your employees are fully aware of the meaning of absenteeism. Your employees may feel they are entitled to sick leave as their right. They may not understand that while sick leave is their right it may only be taken, when they are too sick to report for work. The taking of sick leave by an employee when he/she is not ill is dishonest and unacceptable

·Ensure your employees are aware of the consequences of abuse. Your code of conduct and disciplinary procedures should clearly define what you understand to be abuse. You must also state what the disciplinary action and sanction will be.

·Reinforce your stance on HIV/AIDS and other illnesses that may lead to incapacity. It is essential that employees are aware of what rights they have in these circumstances. Avoid giving the impression that HIV/AIDS is different to any other debilitating or incapacitating illness. Avoid creating stigmas or prejudice.

·Outline your policy on the availability of HIV/AIDS testing and counselling. Reinforce with your staff that testing is available to them and that such testing is on a voluntary and confidential basis. Should an employee wish to disclose their positive status, counselling will be available in order to assist them.

·Explain the impact on morale and productivity. It is important for your staff to understand the impact absenteeism has on their colleagues. Others will have to carry the workload. This will lead to ill feelings and unhappiness. Productivity suffers.

An employee who is absent excessively due to HIV/AIDS should be managed the same as any other employee who is ill. To treat an employee with HIV/AIDS differently to a person suffering from cancer or diabetes is potentially unfair labour practice. How you manage a sick employee will depend on the type of work, the nature of the illness and the impact in terms of your specific business.


An HIV positive employee working in a butcher's shop who is using sharp implements poses a greater threat of transmission than say a motor mechanic. Management of each will be different because of the nature of the work and the possibility of accident and transmission

You need to consider the following

·What impact is it having on performance?

HIV/AIDS causes illness, disability and death. It will have emotional and economic consequences for the company and other employees. It decreases profits and increases the costs to your company.

·Is the employee continually absent from work?

Establish a plan to monitor absenteeism trends for all employees. You should deal with the problem immediately and discuss your concerns with the individual employees.

·Is the employee a danger to self or others?

You need to consider the nature of the work. What is the possibility of transmission and infection? If there was an accident resulting in blood transmission who would be at risk?

·What is the cause of incapacity?

Consider the nature of the incapacity and illness. What is the possibility for improvement? Will your employee get better or worse?

Remember that dismissal is a last resort.

The general rule before termination due to ill health is

·You must investigate thoroughly the seriousness of the illness. The degree of incapacity is relevant to the fairness of the dismissal. The cause is also important. Incapacity and illness due to conditions such as drug abuse or alcoholism may require you to consider counselling and rehabilitation.

·The period of absence. In considering your options, you must look at the nature of the job, the period of absence, the seriousness of the illness.

· In the case of incapacity due to illness you need to consider the possibility of offering alternate employment or of adapting the duties to suit the employee

(Labour relations act and code of good practice: dismissal)

© Des Squire

[email protected]

082 800 9057



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