1) The concept of absenteeism
Absenteeism has become one of the most difficult problems faced by companies today. Companies lose a great deal of money when workers fail to show up at work. Absenteeism is a when a worker makes it a habit not to show up at work of duty (Jones, 1971). Employees usually make excuses for not showing up at work. One of the most common excuses employees use to stay away from work is illness. Most employees use illness as an excuse to stay away from work because employers will find it difficult to ask someone to work if they do not feel well. Other excuses include: caring for a sick family member, bereavement, attending school parents’ days, anniversaries, road accidents and important appointments (Campos and Prdhan, 2007). Employers should make sure employees have a clear understanding of their duties and rules and regulations concerning absenteeism (Campos and Prdhan, 2007).). This could be handed to employees in the form of a handbook and handed to employees before they begin work in the company (Campos and Prdhan, 2007).) It should be remembered, however, that not all absenteeism is opportunistic skiving: there are good reasons for employee absence sometimes, and employers should be aware of the offence and bad feeling they can cause employees by not believing genuine reasons for absence.
There are many different reasons why employees turn to stay away from work. In the case of John, it could be one or more of the following reasons
Working conditions greatly affect an employee’s performance and perception (Booyens, 2008). The work place should be designed in such a way that employees can carry out their duties efficiently. Working conditions do not just involve the environment where the employee works, but also the relationship they have with other co-workers at work (Booyens, 2008). An employee’s relationships with other employees determine how well the employee performs (Booyens, 2008). Employees will tend to call in sick because they are not ready to deal with the day to day unpleasant relationship they have with co-workers. Bullying at work is a major issue these days.
For an employee like John who has been working with Ben for three years, a sudden change in behaviour might have be as a result of a change in working conditions or relationship with other workers. If John occasionally takes Mondays or Fridays off work, there might be something wrong on any or both of those days that affects his behaviour at work. Ben has to find out if there were any unpleasant relationships that made him feel uncomfortable to come to work or whether workplace issues are unrelated to his absence.
Another factor that may affect absenteeism is management style. This means the characteristics that surround decision making by managers (Evans et al, 2002). Some managers are more authoritative and are poor communicators, poor listeners and irresponsible, setting unreachable goals and do not welcome creativity openly (Evans et al, 2002). This kind of management system provides a stressful environment for employees to work, although it must be remembered that employees are different and prefer different management styles: a good manager will be self-aware and able to be flexible regarding this personalisation of management style.
Ben would have found out if John did not like the management system in the company. Ben is the owner of the company and it can be assumed that most of the decisions being made are done by him. It can also be assumed that he does not need to consult anyone before making decisions, and can therefore dismiss any ideas that employees had to contribute. This can be frustrating for John who has worked there for three years. John’s absenteeism could be related to the management style of the company. He might find it difficult to discuss, assuming Ben was not open to suggestions. Therefore to avoid all the stress, he decides staying away from work is the best option to reduce stress.
Incentives are offers made to employees to encourage or motivate them to work (Zhuang, 2010). Incentives can come in the form of reasonable salary package, good bonuses, holidays and flexible working hours (Zhuang, 2010). Companies that offer little pay and expect employees to do more for the same amount will experience high levels of absenteeism. Employees do not find work encouraging when they are paid little and expected to do more. Employees are not also encouraged if they are given little time off for holidays and no bonuses.
As an employee working in Ben’s company for three years, it could be assumed that John’s salary have not made any big difference. It could also be assumed that he has not been given enough holidays to spend with his friends or family. Ben was supposed to find out about this cause of absenteeism before making his decision.
There are other ways employers can terminate an employee’s contract. There are roles and regulations set by the government that employers need to follow before terminating an employee’s contract. The employee can take legal action against employers who do not follow these rules and regulations set by the government. This also depends on the employment agreements between the both parties.
In the case of Ben and John, it could be assumed that John was on a temporary on going basis. Employees working on a temporary basis are more at risk because their employment can be terminated involuntarily at any time. Involuntary termination means the employer can either fire or lay off the employee without the employee’s consent or any good reason (DelPo and Guerin, 2009). This mostly happens with employees working for a short period or covering those on leave and on holiday. There are different ways an employer can tackle absenteeism before thinking about firing the employee, however.
This is one of the methods an employer can use to tackle absenteeism. This can only be carried out if the employer knows the real reason behind absenteeism. This is mostly used to solve the problem of absenteeism if the employee is absent from work because of unpleasant working conditions in the company. This means the employee has a poor or bad relationship with co-workers. This is done by asking the employees to meet in a room with the manager where they can talk about their problems and the manager or mediator can come up with possible solutions that will favour both employees (Haynes et al, 2004).
In the case of John, Ben did not take time to look into the reasons why he was being late for work or absent. Assuming Ben found out that John’s behaviour is because he has a poor relationship with his colleagues at work and the communication has been affected as well, what Ben could have done in this case was: to call John and the colleague he has a problem with to a room to find out the reason for their grievance, if any, and make sure they do not leave the room until a possible solution has been made. This will show how involved Ben is with his employees and also with the company.
Incentives can come in the form of money, promotion and holidays. Empowering employees is also an incentive to make them creative and hardworking: managers should learn how to delegate more, perhaps, so employees feel involved and can claim ownership’ of their work roles and responsibilities.
Assuming John did not like the management style and pay packages, this would have been a good way to try to solve John’s problems. The fact that John has stayed for three years and has been extremely hardworking until lately tells us a lot about how unsatisfied John has become, and that perhaps he has decided to express his unhappiness by being absent or late for work. There are some measures Ben would have taken to tackle this problem assuming he knew the reason for John’s behaviour. Offering a permanent position with a promotion to John would have encouraged him to be more committed to his work. This will make him feel like part of the company and dedicated to see the company move ahead, rather than as a casual worker. John’s behaviour might have been as a result of seeing others in the company progressing and seeing himself still at the same position for three years. Promotion comes with better pay and holiday package – and more status. Changing the management style and empowering John will make him feel valuable and committed to the company.
Make sure the employees clearly understand the rules and regulations concerning absenteeism. This is very important because the employer can always refer to the employee’s handbook for any disagreements that arise.
Keep records of all periods the employee has been absent from work or late for work. This means Ben should keep all dates John has called in sick or been late for work. This should include evidence to show he was ill and reasons why he was late
Ben should have acted immediately he found out this was becoming a habit and not when it became a big problem.
Ben should have given John a formal verbal warning at his office and asked him to sign a document to let him know that this has been formal warning, and the next warning will be a written letter.
Ben should have set a target for John to meet concerning his lateness or absenteeism. This could be asking him to show up at work on time and also not to call in sick on Mondays or Fridays. This should also be formally written down for future reference.
If John’s behaviour continues, Ben should present him with the final warning in the form of a letter to let him know that was his last chance.
In order to fire John, Ben needs to make arrangements about who will take over his job. This means preparing and training someone to do John’s job and making sure that this person can do the job well too.
This is the stage where Ben can no longer take John’s behaviour despite his efforts to try to change him. He then calls him to his office and fires him by talking to him and handing him a letter of termination.
- Booyens, S. W (2008) Introduction to Health Services Management. Edition3. Juta and Company Ltd
- Campos, E. and Pradhan, S (2007) The many faces of corruption: tracking vulnerabilities at the sector level. World Bank Publications, 2007
- DelPo, A. and Guerin, L (2009). The Essential Guide to Federal Employment Laws. Edition 2. Nolo
- Evans, E et al (2002) From absence to attendance. Edition 2. CIPD Publishing
- Haynes, M et al (2004). Mediation: positive conflict management. SUNY Press
- Jones, M. R (1971) Absenteeism: a study prepared for the Department [of Employment. Issue 4 . H.M. Stationery Off
- Zhuang, J (2010) Poverty, Inequality, and Inclusive Growth in Asia: Measurement, Policy Issues, and Country Studies. Anthem Press