Practices in Absenteeism Management

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Here are some of the most significant experiences in absenteeism management that companies have commented on, grouped into eight categories.

  • Absenteeism Diagnosis and Rates
  • Company Policies
  • Prevention
  • Middle Management
  • Motivational and Working Atmosphere Policies
  • Financial Techniques
  • Monitoring Control Techniques
  • Healthcare Policies

Absenteeism Diagnosis and Rates

  • Definition of a uniform Absenteeism Rate in all organisations that enables comparisons to be made with the industry which the company is in and with companies from other industries.
  • Measurement of absenteeism throughout company with a uniform absenteeism rate for each workplace, each office and each department in order to identify where absenteeism occurs in the company and the differences between each workplace/department. Once the workplaces with the highest absenteeism rates are identified, specific action plans are designed to analyse and reduce absenteeism, and workplaces with the lowest absenteeism rates are rewarded.
  • Analyse in depth the causes of absenteeism through diagnosis and to a lesser extent in its effects. The company distinguishes the different types of absenteeism: medical absenteeism (work-related or non work-related injury or disease), non-medical absenteeism, manageable absenteeism, non-manageable absenteeism, foreseen absenteeism and unforeseen absenteeism. And within these causes, differentiate absenteeism by category: job, age, gender and type of contract.
  • An absenteeism rate target is set at each office of the company, and absenteeism rates are officially communicated on a regular basis to the entire organisation, thus promoting a horizontal message.
  • An Absenteeism Management Plan is prepared at the company every year in which management provides a framework for absenteeism rate targets and for the actions to perform to achieve these targets based on a constant improvement management system. All employees share in the success achieved, and if the absenteeism rate is reduced with respect to the previous quarter, any savings in absenteeism costs are distributed among workers at the workplace.

Company Policies

  • Absenteeism must be considered a priority topic at the organisation and all company employees must be involved. Management, HR management, medical services, health and safety services, middle management, workers' committees, and health and safety committees. This ensures that the entire company is aware of the importance of absenteeism for the company and makes it possible to stress absenteeism and its costs in the value chain.
  • A strategic plan is developed which aims to reduce absenteeism at the company with the involvement of management and the collaboration of the workers' committee with two objectives: Zero injuries and reduction of the absenteeism rate to below 3%.
  • A balanced scorecard of absenteeism rate targets consistent with company objectives for each area manager is created, and absenteeism is conceived within the company's income statement.
  • PLAN EVOLUCIONA is implemented at the company, thus fostering an environment at the company in which absenteeism is a priority topic and promoting rigour in absenteeism management.
  • The company fosters a cultural change through awareness and internal marketing to instil healthy habits. The slogan is: Thinking about YOUR Health and that of YOUR family. Once a year the company organises HEALTHY WEEK, a week used to promote healthy habits in terms of diet, anti-smoking campaigns, sports (like Bike to Work Day, one day a year on which employees bike to work).


  • An action protocol for a work-related injury is established: Direct communication by the employee to his/her immediate superior. Once the manager is notified that a work-related injury has occurred, he/she personally communicates all the information to the Health and Safety Service along with his/her opinion and subsequently goes with the employee to the FREMAP healthcare centre. The loss prevention officer goes to the site to investigate the work-related injury. All incidents are investigated, not only injuries.
  • Prevention of injuries while commuting through research, safety campaigns, transportation routes at the company, compulsory driving courses for commercial vehicles.
  • Training and information for workers on how to avoid injuries: So that all employees are aware of the injuries that occur at the company and can learn to avoid hazardous conduct. Newsletters are published to notify all employees every time an injury occurs at the company. Based on the injuries that occur, solutions are implemented across the board throughout the company. Health and safety at the company seeks "to do for people", not only comply with regulations.
  • Identification of a "Near-miss injury": This entails identifying unsafe work situations that may lead to a possible injury. Monthly departmental meetings are conducted where such information is used to attempt to prevent future injuries.
  • "Learn from our mistakes": It consists of observing unsafe conduct: The employees themselves observe what their co-workers do. They have a check-list of what not to do because it is hazardous conduct. Observation is done on a rotating basis among all employees.
  • "Avoid injuries" programme: Injuries that have occurred are analysed on a quarterly basis and employees who have suffered these injuries are provided practical training, for example, training on the handling of loads is given in the case of back injuries. If the worker suffers from the injury again, he/she also repeats the course.
  • Benchmarking among health and safety officers of the group of companies primarily when the company is international, with regular meetings and unification of criteria at a group level, and benchmarking in safety with other outside companies.

Middle Management

  • Ongoing training programme planned annually for middle management based on new employees and rotations, with special emphasis on absenteeism management: absences, follow-ups, active role of middle management, its knowledge of the direct and indirect costs of absenteeism, the economic impact on the organisation of medical leaves.
  • Make middle management contribute to the organisation of the work of its team: Middle management is involved in the hiring process and is therefore involved in absenteeism management. It is given absenteeism reduction goal.
  • An agreement is reached with middle management on an allowed absenteeism percentage, which entails not hiring substitutes (work-related injuries and maternity leave are not taken into account). It is about making middle management aware of the fact that it manages the absenteeism of its team.
  • Humanise the relationship of middle management with workers, conciliatory profile, with the aim of sensitising the relationship of management towards the people on its team: manage with people in mind, in addition to establishing a protocol followed by middle management to welcome workers rejoining the team after a medical leave, primarily after long-term absences. This seeks to prevent the "barrier to returning".
  • The role of middle management is key for disseminating within the company the best practices of each workplace. Yearly meetings are conducted among supervisors to share and exchange experiences in managing absenteeism. There are also meetings, conferences and forums among middle management.

Motivational and Working Atmosphere Policies

  • The company fosters the need to recover values. Not measuring absenteeism as something negative, it is necessary to measure work as something positive, measuring the worker when he/she is at work and not measuring his/her work when he/she is not. That is, to measure the productivity of employees by results in order to prevent short-term absenteeism, presenteeism and emotional absenteeism, thus motivating workers to develop their talent in the company.
  • Measures for reconciliation and to enhance flexibility: Some examples of these measures are: Telework, at those companies where it is possible, the CONCILIA PLAN, which consists of providing schedule flexibility (a start time and an end time); nursery schools onsite or semi-private, flexibility in reducing working hours and for nursing; flexibility for holidays; facilitate shift changes and leaves of absence to care for relatives.
  • Conducting surveys of employees with questions regarding how the company is operated, company policies and work atmosphere (an internal survey and a survey conducted by an external consulting firm) in order to learn the opinion of workers and prepare actions plans for each department to improve how the company is run. Examples of improvement: flexitimes, thematic months for employees (life is good when it's healthy), agreements with different companies for employees (nurseries, travel agencies, etc.).
  • Work with rotations in different departments and also with rotation in different jobs to prevent de-motivation in performing routine tasks and to motivate for career paths. Rotation is also used when problems of leadership or among co-workers are detected.
  • EFR Certificate: Family-Responsible Company. It is an initiative of Fundación Más Familia and certifies companies that develop policies making it possible for employees to reconcile personal life with family life.
  • Well-being plan, which consists of arranging to have a physiotherapist available every morning to employees with payment shared between the company and the employee at a minimum price and a psychology office available to employees with payment made entirely by the company.
  • Rewarding non-absenteeism. Some examples of this practice are: MINUTE A DAY (which are daily follow-up meetings between team leaders and team members to assess absenteeism results and possible incentives or awards for improving results), an award of up to two non-recoverable days of leave (when individual absenteeism is under 0.5%), and the Zero Injuries Award (consisting of three personal days).

Financial Techniques

  • The company does not reward non-absenteeism, but instead uses remuneration systems linked to productivity, to accident rates. This must be viewed by the entire company as a strategic issue and the absenteeism rate target must be similar in importance to the rest of the company's objectives.
  • Variable remuneration system for all employees based on company and individual objectives. This means that there is teamwork to achieve these objectives.
  • The company has a premium that it is ( A + B) x C: where A is linked to productivity and B to versatility while C is the corrective factor which is the absenteeism rate of each worker.
  • Reduction in voluntary complements to the temporary incapacity benefit : For example in scale, thus the first leave in the year is complemented. If the employee has another leave within the same year, it is completed at 85%, while the third leave is not complemented at all. Chronic diseases are excluded.
  • Companies whose highest absenteeism cost is the indirect cost of training, versatility between different areas is addressed.
  • Incentives ranging from 5% - 10% of salary linked to sales and to absenteeism. If the worker has more than three days of absenteeism for a Non Work-related injury or disease or for a Work-related injury in the year, he/she would not be paid the incentive (if preventive measures have not been used, the incentive is directly not paid).
  • If the absenteeism rate at the company decreases to below the rate set for the company, a premium is paid to all workers. That is, if the company's entire staff achieves the absenteeism rate target set for the company, each employee will receive between 0 and 200 euros, provided that no individual worker has had more than two absences in the year. If the company's absenteeism rate is below the target set, a higher premium is paid.

Control and monitoring techniques

  • Companies with different platforms nationwide with company management centralised from a single office that control absenteeism from a distance will prepare an action plan to decentralise management and appoint staff in human resources by Autonomous Community in order to better control absenteeism by province. It is thus possible to implement a decentralised human resource management system.
  • Creation in the human resources department with two job profiles: A person devoted to the administrative management of medical leaves in order to reduce the time it takes to transfer information to middle management in the HR department and to send leaves to FREMAP, and another person devoted to managing and monitoring leaves who reports on absenteeism to management on a daily basis.
  • The figure of the human resources manager is created. It is a person who has a close relationship with employees, who knows them, thus preventing the anonymity of the person on medical leave. He/she is also in charge of handling workers designated as especially sensitive.
  • The company establishes objectives regarding how to act in the event of absenteeism which consist of: Supporting ill employees; detecting employees with recurrent short-term leaves, and lastly managing long-term leaves and subsequent returns to the workplace.
  • Involve all areas of the organisation in the management of absenteeism by creating committees to analyse on an individual basis the situation of each worker on medical leave and propose concrete actions, for example: position changes, payment of pending medical tests, inviting the worker to talk to the committee about his/her needs.
  • The company monitors absenteeism in three ways:
    • On a daily basis: First thing in the morning, management meets with middle management who reports on absences during the previous day.
    • On a monthly basis: There is competition among factories to decrease absenteeism.
    • Peaks in absenteeism: In the event of an increase in the absenteeism rate with respect to previous periods, a working group is formed to analyse the causes in the past year and the possible solutions.
  • Onsite absenteeism at the company is controlled by giving all employees the code of best practices which informs workers that the company computer may not be used for personal use. Time spent on the Internet is evaluated every month.

Healthcare Policies

  • The company conducts absenteeism prevention by thinking about the long term through preventive medicine and early detection of possible health problems in workers. For example with the conducting of vaccination campaigns, severe disease prevention campaigns (prevention of glaucoma, osteoporosis), back education, road safety campaigns, ergonomic training, "Healthy Habits" campaigns.
  • Companies that use their own medical services to achieve a twofold goal: first, reduce the costs of absenteeism, since workers request fewer leaves for medical appointments; second, the company provides a social benefit for the employee, who has a second medical opinion concerning the problem. It seeks to promote the overall health of the company.
  • The company's medical service monitors temporary disability procedures during the medical leave and subsequently after the worker returns to the workplace. The worker's agreement sets forth that an employee on medical leave must visit the company doctor once a week if the employee's medical problem allows him/her to do so.
  • Every day, human resource management receives a report from the company doctor indicating whether or not he/she believes that temporary incapacity should be granted to the worker on medical leave. This report also provides a month by month comparison of the temporary incapacity of each worker and the workers which have had leaves in previous months.
  • Workers have a social benefit, private health insurance. The company pays one part and the worker pays the other part.
  • Agreements with private clinics for rehabilitation, provided rehabilitation is prescribed by the company doctor, and for psychological problems, there are agreements with mental health centres.
  • The company's medical service analyses and manages permanent disabilities. It first identifies chronic pathologies and ensures that the company provides all necessary resources, such as medical reports, examinations by medical experts, etc., to support and collaborate with the worker suffering from the disease in order to apply for permanent disability with the National Social Security Institute's Provincial Office.