10% of employees account for 50 per cent or more of total absenteeism. Employees who continuously let the team down by not turning up for work can cause real problems for management – they are high-maintenance employees.  Here’s how to deal with it:


Focus on interdependence

Research shows that the greater the reliance employees have on each other the lower their absenteeism.

  1. Use work teams to get employees involved.
  2. Involve employees in decisions on issues which affect them.
  3. Involve employees in projects that require participation among colleagues.
  4. Encourage employees to tell you in advance when they will be absent.
  5. Build trust.


Warning signs

Most employees have valid reasons for absenteeism. Some employees will stay off work because their jobs are not challenging enough or when they feel bored. Become aware of employee’s personal challenges and remain in contact to ensure that you can nip their behaviour in the bud – take corrective action.


Look for patterns

Do certain employees’ absenteeism coincide with major events or happens to be on a Friday or Monday – conveniently near a weekend?


Keep records

When absenteeism is recorded employees are less likely to be absent from work.


Conduct post-absence meetings

Suspicious absenteeism should not be allowed to go unnoticed. Call for a meeting with the employee and ask them to explain their absence. Be kind and compassionate because you may have read the situation wrong.



Be supportive and compassionate before deciding on disciplinary actions. Determine if the employee is experiencing personal problems such as family crisis, genuine illness, low self-esteem or perhaps avoiding problems at work. Offer help like counselling, training, coaching or even paid leave.



If you are not convinced about the legitimacy of the absenteeism meet formally with the employee and reveal evidence. Decide whether to give another chance to improve performance or whether to discipline or terminate employment.


Consider the following strategies as well:

  1. Decide on attendance standards and communicate them to the staff.
  2. Decide on consequences and enforce them.
  3. Explain the effect that poor attendance has on work, peers, the organisation and the employee.
  4. Reward good performance and attendance.
  5. Make jobs more interesting and challenging.
  6. Give the individual more responsibilities. When expectations are higher they tend to spend more time at work and absenteeism may stop completely.
  7. Absenteeism is a symptom of other problems. Uncover what those problems are and fix it.
  8. Consider flexible working hours, child-care centres, fitness programmes, benefits for accrued sick days, and incentives for good attendance.


Elsabe Manning