Employee health and wellbeing: managing absence and lateness

Let’s discuss employee health and wellbeing in relation to absence as well as lateness.  What are the effects that absence and lateness can have on your business, and what are the most effective ways to manage them?

Absent and constantly late employees don’t just affect your organisation’s productivity; they can also have a negative impact on the rest of your team’s morale. Repeated absenteeism or lateness may indicate a serious problem. If, as a manager, you are to have any chance of reducing the conflict between an employee’s lack of desire to come to work and their reasons for not coming to work on time, it is vital that you understand the truth behind their absence or lateness.

Health and wellbeing at work

A 2018 CIPD Health and Well-being at Work Survey has re-branded ‘absence management’ to show an increased focus on health and well-being policies and workplace practices.

Some interesting findings include:

•  The average level of employee absence is 6.6 days per employee per year.
•  Absence is highest in the public sector (8.5 days compared with 5.6 days in private sector services).
•  Return-to-work interviews are the most popular method of managing absence.
•  37% of organisations report that stress-related absence has increased.
•  55% say that reported common mental health conditions have increased.

An earlier 2015 CIPD Absence Management Survey found that the average median cost of absenteeism was £609 per employee.

Managing absence

Rhodes and Steers identified two main categories of employee absence:

1. Motivational (work ethic, job satisfaction, compensation)
2. Logistical (transport difficulties, childcare responsibilities, ill-health)

The motivational and logistical categories of absenteeism provide a broad overview of the reasons why employees may take time off. However, absence management is a complex process that requires a wide range of actions to resolve. If your employee has reasonable cause for not coming to work it might be possible to reach a special arrangement with them, such as some form of flexible working. If such a compromise is unsustainable or not acceptable to either party then it may be time to start capability or even disciplinary processes instead.

Managing lateness

An employee running half an hour late on occasion is nowhere near as big a problem for your business as the employee who is the last to arrive and the first to leave every day. When you consider time to be a paid-for business commodity it becomes much easier to see serial lateness as a clear problem.

Each workplace will have different expectations. Some employers may forgive an employee who starts late but works well past their finish time every day as it might not impact the business and may get the best performance out of that person. However, this arrangement may not work for the next business, where the contracted hours of employment could well be in place for a reason.

To make sure that your employees know what behaviour is expected of them, we advise introducing a lateness time and attendance policy that sets out:

  • The required standards of timekeeping
  • How timekeeping will be monitored
  • The process for reporting lateness
  • If and how they will make up any time that they have missed
  • The consequences of persistent lateness
Policies and handbooks

It is your responsibility to communicate the policy to all of your employees. You can include a summary in the contract of employment and employee handbook and also address it during the induction process. When your employees understand your view on timekeeping and see that the rules are consistent they will have no excuses for not observing the procedure.

If you have an employee who meets their working hours but does so outside of the times that you need them to be there it may be easy to resolve the issue with an informal chat or counselling. If this does not have the desired effect you will need to take a more formal approach.

  • Record start and finish times every day that the employee fails to work their full hours. Empirical evidence will be important for building a case if you need to take the process further.
  • If your employee’s behaviour does not change you will have to go through a formal disciplinary process. This may see them issued with a recorded formal warning which would set out expected areas for improvement.

Depending on the level of warning issued their performance can be under scrutiny for anything between 6 and 12 months.  Whilst you would hope that their attendance would no longer be an issue, that is unfortunately not always the case.  From the point that you issue the warning, your employee is in the disciplinary process. How you proceed from there will depend entirely upon their continuing behaviour.

Further HR guidance

Awareness of the scale of mental health issues is growing rapidly, and with that follows the need to increase our understanding of how people experiencing mental ill health can be supported in the workplace.

Watch HR webinar recordings on demand:

Read employee management articles:

Read HR articles about the basics of employee management and team building right here.

Do you need HR advice and support?  For HR advice and support, call HR Solutions on 0844 324 5840 or Contact Us Online to find out how we can help.


This republished article was first posted on 14 November 2019.




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