How to Prevent and Manage Long-Term Absenteeism

An increase in disability cases, ageing workforce, multiplication of absences for mental health reasons… How to prevent and manage long-term absenteeism? Expert advice.

The costs related to absenteeism and long-term absenteeism represent 20% of a company’s payroll, estimates Daniel Leduc, CRIA and lawyer in employment and labour law at Norton Rose Fulbright. “When a company makes efforts to counteract absenteeism, it obtains concrete results which translate into significant savings,” he says at the outset.

Long-term absenteeism creates direct costs (paying a salary to an absentee worker) and indirect costs (increased insurance premiums, for example). To avoid them, it’s better to adopt an absenteeism management policy. But how is to to be set up and applied effectively?

A written policy

“Absenteeism happens daily in all companies. It’s always surprising to find that some companies have no management policy,” the expert emphasizes. In his view it is very important to have a clear written policy, communicated to employees at the pre-hiring stage and covering all subjects related to absenteeism.

Determine the procedure to follow

Above all, the policy must mention clearly who to call in the event of an absence and within what time. “An organization can legitimately require that the employee speaks to someone, rather than leaving a message on an answering machine,” says Daniel Leduc, adding that this will let the manager ask a number of questions with a view to better tracking.

Ask for a medical certificate

The policy should also provide the context in which a medical certificate can be required and at what time. It is often required for absences of three consecutive days. In addition, it is important to detail the content of the certificate: if it has to be signed by the doctor, contain a statement on the disabling nature of the injury or if the diagnosis has to be recorded on it.

The manager can also reserve the right to require a medical certificate for repeated occasional absences. “In the classic case of an employee who has been refused leave and is absent anyway, a certificate can be required, even if the absence is less than three days,” explains the lawyer. Some clauses of the policy can also relate to an independent medical assessment, especially for long term leave.

Policy read and approved

As with any employee guide, it is ideal for employees to acknowledge that they have read and understood the absenteeism management policy, and commit to complying with it. Daniel Leduc also recommends renewing this attestation of knowledge each year. “It makes the employees responsible,” he notes.

Finally, especially in the case of long term leave, the lawyer advises keeping in contact with your employee. “The last thing to do is to do nothing,” he concludes.

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