All employers know that employee absenteeism is a big problem. It reduces productivity, morale and the company bottom line. The ever present challenge is how employers can prevent and reduce absenteeism. CCH, a leading provider of human resources and employment law information (hr.cch.com) conducted an unscheduled absence survey in 2005 and found that the average per employee cost of absenteeism is $660 with some larger companies losing more than $1 million per year. What is of great concern to employers is that almost two out of three employees who call in sick are not physically sick. Personal illness accounted for only 35 percent of unscheduled absences and 65% were due to other reasons including family issues (21 percent), personal needs (18 percent) entitlement mentality (14 percent) and stress (12 percent).
Companies with low morale saw higher rates and costs of unscheduled absences. 78% of human resource managers feel that the main cause of absenteeism is the belief that those who skip out of work believe they are entitled to time off. The other reason cited by human resource managers is a lack of supervisor involvement as a catalyst to discourage employee absenteeism. When managers understand the causes of absenteeism and use the EAP as a resource for assisting employees, they can play a big role in reducing absenteeism.
When employees are faced with stressful everyday life situations, it has an impact on their ability to be present in their jobs. Stressful situations include family and relationship problems, physical illness, addictions, financial difficulties including foreclosure, bankruptcy, identity theft, debt and unemployment by a spouse. If employees have a confidential, employer sponsored way (the EAP) to obtain assistance with these difficulties, they are more likely to address their problems earlier and resolve them quicker. Additional worklife and wellness programs as part of the EAP can be very helpful for employees trying to manage the stress of balancing work and family issues.
The EAP can also train managers on how to recognize and identify personal problems before they have begun to effect performance. When managers can coach employees on how to use the EAP, they stay out of the middle of their personal problems, while still offering a way to get help. Once personal problems have begun to effect performance or absenteeism, they can refer the employee to the EAP as a supervisor referral for peformance based issues. In addition, when employees know they are valued and given a free, confidential resource to address their personal problems, they feel appreciated by and more loyal to their employer.
Employers should also create incentive programs that can improve both attitude and attendance rates. This works for several reasons. Some employees may lack the internal motivation necessary to keep their spirits up and give them the drive and desire to show up to work every day. These people may need the external motivation that incentives provide.
Additionally, incentives tend to promote certain goals, which can be beneficial for employees with attendance problems. The company can create an incentive program that is specifically linked to attendance. Examples of this type of program include:
1) The ability to cash-in unused sick days at the end of a specific period
2) Allowing employees to leave early one Friday per month of perfect attendance
3) Bonus pay for periods of perfect attendance
4) Gifts such as savings bonds or gift cards for periods of perfect attendance
5) Paid time off programs which allow for personal issues, vacation and sick time all in one bank of hours so employees can use what they need when needed.
Of course employers do need to be clear with employees that if they are legitimately sick, they should stay home so that no one else at work gets sick and so they can take the time they need to get better. When the workplace culture is one that does not allow people to be ill, then it will create resentment and poor morale.
Do you have any good suggestions for preventing absenteeism? If so, we would love to hear your ideas.
Fully Effective Employees offers assistance with drug testing, management training and consultation, and confidential assistance to employees and their families with personal and work related problems.
Many employers may see their Workers’ Compensation premiums increase for 2012. Fully Effective Employees, employee assistance program can help employers reduce their liability while preventing expensive claims and reducing the amount of time an employee is off work. Prevention is key- offering support to employees and awareness for employers of the causes of increased WC claims will go a long way to reduce costs. Behavioral risk factors including, attendance, performance issues, depression and drug and alcohol abuse are all known to be associated with workplace accidents, injuries and even fatalities.
The first step employers can take is to provide a drug testing program. Research shows that employees who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol are 3.6 times more likely to be involved in on the job accidents and 5 times more likely to injure themselves or someone else. They are also five times more likely to file a worker’s compensation claim.
When employees are impaired, their judgment, response time and reflexes are also impaired. Letting all employees know that your company will be conducting pre-employment, random and post-accident drug testing will discourage drug users from working for you. Over the years, we have found that the companies with the highest compensation rates are the ones that don’t drug test. Obviously, more drug users work for companies that don’t drug test.
Next, employers should use their EAP to help all employees who test positive for drugs. The EAP can assess the client, refer him for treatment if indicated, and monitor his progress in treatment. The EAP will continue to provide support once treatment has been completed when he is at the greatest risk for relapse.
Employers could also refer all employees to the EAP when they are injured. The client can choose to confidentially discuss issues related to the injury, including relationship and communication issues with co-workers and family members. The EAP counselor can assess whether there are pre-existing issues or if the employee is at risk for malingering, depression, or drug abuse due to prescription medication or untreated substance abuse issues that occured prior to the claim. The EAP counselor can assist the employee with a return to work plan, preparing him or her for a change in job function or an adjustment to work as soon as possible. The result of working with the EAP is that injured employees may be more likely to return to work sooner and be less likely to abuse the WC benefits. The EAP would also provide follow up and support to the worker after he has returned to work.
The back to work plan is essential. Supervisors should be encouraged to avoid conflicts with employees via telephone or by email with injured workers. Research has shown that supervisor and co-worker conflicts figure prominently in increased injury recovery times and protracted absenteeism of injured workers. In addition, a zero tolerance policy should be implemented for harassing employees on light duty. If a medical doctor has approved an employee to return to work on light duty, co-workers should not be permitted to guilt, influence or intimidate a recovering worker to participate in unapproved work activities. (www.workexcel.net)
Our staff at Fully Effective Employees will meet with your company safety or human resources manager to discuss the role the EAP can play in helping you to prevent and reduce your WC claims. We can discuss your risk exposure, safety plans, training, and assist with a drug testing program. These services are all part of our program to provide both an employee and employer assistance program. Once you have implemented this plan, you should be able to provide evidence of your program to prevent and reduce WC claims ,which should result in lower rates for the following year. The added bonus is a safer workplace and healthier, happier or more loyal employees.