What is Absence Management? A Guide for HR Teams

Andrew Buck's avatar Andrew Buck March 13, 2024

When you’re running a team, absences come with the job. No team of human beings will have a 100% attendance rate from every single team member. That’s why Absence Management is important.

Whether members of your team get sick, have personal commitments that pull them away, or are absent from work for any other reason, you need a robust system to keep track of these absences and, if necessary, take follow-up actions.

Read on as we explain exactly what’s meant by absence management, how to set up such a system for your team, and more tips on effective absence management.

What is Absence Management in HR?

Absence management is the process your HR team, or individual department heads, follow whenever a team member cannot or does not work their regular shift.

It includes setting up absence management policies, tracking absences, filing and organizing absence data, and taking further action where needed.

Why is Absence Management Important?

Absence management is essential for a number of reasons.

What Kind of Absences Should You Track?

Not all absences are the same. It’s important to know the different kinds of absences you’ll come across, and have a different plan to manage each.

Here’s a summary of what you need to know.

Planned Absences

Planned absences are those that are known and scheduled ahead of time.

These include vacation time, parental leave, jury duty, and in some cases, personal days.

Generally, employees notify their team leader in line with your time off request policy, and the absence is noted on your team’s leave calendar.

Planned absences are usually more common than other types, and most likely won’t require follow-up actions, like disciplinary actions. However, it’s still vital to track and manage planned, excused absences, both for scheduling purposes and also to make sure employees stay within their allowed quota for that type of leave.

Unplanned Absences

Unplanned absences are, in most cases, sick leave. Sometimes you may have personal days or other leave types come up on short notice, without prior arrangement.

These are some situations where unplanned absences may happen:

Unplanned absences are not always cause for further action. However, they usually require following up if they become too regular.

Unexcused Absences

Unexcused absences are those which are unplanned and unexpected, but do not come with a good reason (such as illness or injury).

These are usually no-shows – when someone simply does not come to work, without notifying anyone or providing advance notice.

It’s vital you track unexcused absences, as they almost always require further action, which may extend to disciplinary procedures and/or termination.

Key Parts of Your Absence Management System

Let’s examine the various cogs and pieces of a high-functioning absence management system.

Employee Absence Policy

An absence policy, or absence management policy, communicates to employees all relevant expectations and responsibilities.

It may be much the same as an employee attendance policy. It should state things such as:

Procedures for Handling Absences

There should be standard procedures that team leaders or HR staff follow for all employee absences.

This is important to ensure that no absences go overlooked or forgotten. Procedures might include:

Absence Management Software

Effective absence management programs should utilize automation, and absence management software to more easily track and manage absences.

Flamingo is a perfect example. It provides a self-service portal for employees to give notice that they will not be able to come to work, via web, Slack or Microsoft Teams.

Managers will be notified of the absence once entered by the employee. The software automatically records the absence, deducts it from the employee’s allowed absence quota, and adds it to a team-wide absence calendar.

A streamlined absence management system, powered by absence management software, makes following standard procedures much easier for employees, line managers and HR departments.

Learn more about the benefits of using Absence Management Software in this article.

Regular Reviews

It’s also important to regularly review absence data and pick out any trends or issues that require following up.

For example, you might identify those employees with the highest or lowest absence rates each quarter. You might also look through the data to see if any trends emerge with a particular employee, such as regular absences on a specific date.

Reviewing and analyzing data is another reason to use an absence management software. A tool like this lets you access detailed absence data in just a few clicks.

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Follow-up Actions

Follow up reviews by taking action, if necessary, on the insights you have uncovered.

This may mean a sit-down meeting with an employee to discuss their health and wellbeing, and talk about what you can do to help.

It could also mean initiating disciplinary actions for employees with an unacceptably high rate of absences (particularly unexcused absences).

Another follow-up action could be coordinating absence data with payroll, to ensure sick leave is correctly paid out for a sickness absence, or that an employee is not paid their regular salary if they missed work without reason, for example.

Preventative Measures

An absence management system should not only cover what to do after an absence occurs, but also help prevent absences.

This is primarily concerned with supporting employees to be healthy, happy and engaged at work, as well as working together with team members to make it easier for them to maintain a high attendance rate.

Preventative measures for absence management may include:

Why You Need to Track and Manage Employee Absences

The idea of absence management is to reduce the costs associated with employee absences.

Absences come with a number of direct and indirect costs.

Direct costs include:

While indirect costs include:

It’s vital that you’re proactive about absence management, that you have a clear and effective absence management policy, and that you simplify your absence management system through automation, such as Flamingo’s absence tracker.

This will result in lower long-term expenses, reduced turnover, and a more cohesive and engaged team who operate well together and produce a higher standard of work.

Andrew Buck's avatar

Andrew Buck

Andrew is the content manager at Flamingo. He has managed teams in multiple industries, for both physical and remote businesses, and has experience dealing with the ins and outs of HR and leave management on a daily basis.

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