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Absence Management: 3 Ways to Reduce Employee Absenteeism

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*This blog was update September 18th, 2023

Before an organization can effectively manage its employee absences, it needs to better understand why poor attendance is an issue. 

Understanding Why Absenteeism Happens in Your Company  

The range of reasons for absenteeism makes absence management incrediblychallenging. Many factors impact employee attendance. They include culture, demographics, and work life balance, as well as the specific challenges of the industry or job role.  

There are more general consequences to consider, as well. Employee retention for one. According to a poll by Monster, a job search site, 96% of workers are looking for a new job in 2023. A quarter of those looking for a new job say it’s because their current workplace is toxic. They hate coming in to work every day. 

To combat a high absenteeism rate, talk to the employees. Regularly survey them to find out what common causes are leading to unexcused absences. Survey employees anonymouslyin efforts to motivate more employees to respond. Managers can hold open forums to hear from employees about their employee experience managing absences from work. 


Give employees a non-confrontational venue to discuss with management that causes potential solutions to unexcused absenteeism. You enhance the chances of success when workers and managers collaborate to reduce absenteeism.  

After establishing areas to address regarding absence management, consider taking these three steps to reduce employee absenteeism. 

Define Attendance Policies Then Go One Step Further  

If your company is like most, the HR team hands out an employee manual to each new hire. That employee manual should include your attendance policies. 

Setting expectations for employees is an important and foundational step in absence management. Employers will struggle to measure the financial impact of absenteeism on the business and productivity if there are no clear attendance rules. Supervisors need clear guidelines to hold employees accountable for their record of attendance and absence.  

An attendance policy should include: 

  • Definitions of relevant terms. 
  • Requirements related to paid time off eligibility, paid sick leave and personal time off. 
  • Outline time off notification procedures for tardiness or for calling in sick. 
  • Specialized leave like FMLA or Military leave. 

These are just a few issues an attendance policy should cover. Check this out for a more detailed discussion on what belongs in your attendance policy. 

Ensure employees fully understand and can easily access attendance policy information. Your company can put together a “quick reference” attendance guide for employees. The guide can include:

  • An explanation why attendance matters to their success as an employee and company success. 
  • Overview of policies and expectations. 
  • Detailed steps for requesting time off or calling in with unscheduled absences. 
  • List of incentives for good attendance. 

Establish Generous Attendance Incentives  

Disciplinary action and counseling may be appropriate for chronically absent employees. Yet positive reinforcement as incentives can also be powerful. When managers or HR professionals take a positive approach to managing attendance, they are protecting the employee-employer relationship. Maintaining a positive relationship increases retention and lowers the costs of hiring new employees. 

If your organization decides an attendance incentive program would be beneficial in its efforts to manage absences, consider the following ideas:  


  • Publicly celebrate employees with perfect attendance with a special announcement or dinner with the CEO.  
  • Let employees roll over unused sick days or allow them to cash them in at the end of the year.  
  • Attach long-term attendance requirements to promotion opportunities.  
  • Offer bonuses, or additional paid time off for employees with perfect attendance.  

If an organization decides an incentive program would support their attendance management program, be sure to establish realistic expectations and goals for the program and outline them in the attendance policy in the employee handbook. The incentive program should be clear and simple. Employees should be able to understand easily what they need to do to make progress towards the incentive goals. Clearly delineate the achievement levels and the associated rewards for each. 


An effective incentive program is not subjective. Rewards should also be significant and impactful for the employee — no keychains or stress balls.  

Just as when an organization is establishing the causes of absenteeism, gathering feedback from supervisors and employees is important. Ask employees directly what their perception of the incentives program is. Promptly fix what isn’t working.  

Encourage Workplace Wellness  

An increasing trend in managing absenteeism is supporting employee wellness. This is an insightful approach. Employees who suffer with mental health issues or chronic illness often have higher absenteeism and low productivity.  

There are numbers to prove it. In 2015, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that companies lost $200 billion each year because of lost productivity linked to absenteeism. The report cited some examples of what employee wellness may include, such as providing employees with:  

  • Quality health insurance options for employees. 
  • On-site exercise equipment or subsidizing gym memberships. 
  • Health and wellness classes for employees during the work day. 
  • Healthy snacks in break rooms. 

But wellness not only refers to an employee’s physical condition. Mental illness is also a leading factor in absenteeism. A business can only do so much for an employee who’s not at work. However, an employer can affect the mental wellbeing of its workforce by providing a supportive work environment.  

According to Gallup’s Employee Engagement research, “Engaged employees have higher wellbeing, better retention, lower absenteeism and higher productivity.” 

Supervisors can influence an employee’s outlook on their job by supporting their teams. They should set clear expectations and a well-defined team purpose. Team members respond positively when they’re recognized individually for their unique contributions.  

Team-building activities improve the workplace culture and help managers learn more about each employee. They can use this knowledge to make sure the team has what it needs to succeed. These are a few ways managers can improve employee engagement at work.  

Absence management is a challeng but important issue for any business to take on. 

You can learn more about developing an attendance policy for or an incentives program with our free eBook, “The Step-By-Step Guide to Minimizing Absenteeism with a Strong Employee Attendance Policy.”  


While ATS is passionate about supporting organizations as they address their time and attendance dynamics around timekeeping and employee time clocks, we recommend you reach out to your regional and/or local HR chapter for more information on common workplace advice and procedures.  

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