3 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Managing Staff Absence

April 15, 2024

It’s more common than you’d think for employers to ignore issues around employee absences, perhaps because they feel uncomfortable addressing them directly, or because they don’t know the right questions to ask or actions to take. However, this approach can lead to more problems down the line. 

Failing to address employee absences is one of the top three mistakes that managers make. So, let’s explore how to avoid these mistakes and manage staff absences more effectively. Are you ready to learn more?

Contents

3 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Managing Staff Absence

Benefits of Managing Staff Absence Effectively 

Tips for Addressing Presenteeism

FAQs

3 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Managing Staff Absence

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Avoid these mistakes

Poor Communication 

Picture this scenario: You’re a manager, and one of your employees has been off sick for a few days. You’re not sure how to address the situation, so you avoid it altogether. However, by avoiding communication with the absent employee, you run the risk of causing frustration, misunderstandings, and even resentment. They may begin to feel that their well-being is not a priority and that their hard work is not appreciated.

While it may seem easier to avoid communication altogether, this can have negative consequences for both the employer and employee. A better approach is to enhance open and healthy communication with all employees to make sure to have a clear and concise policy in place and to communicate this policy to all employees. The policy should also be easily accessible, such as on the company intranet or in a handbook. 

Moreover, the policy should include information on how to request time off, what documentation is required, and any potential consequences for excessive absences. By having a clear policy in place, employers can ensure that all employees are aware of the rules and expectations around absences. This can prevent possible confusion or misunderstandings. The policy should be easy to understand and should be written in plain language. It’s also important to make sure that the policy is applied consistently and fairly to all employees. 

Another key step is to provide clear and consistent feedback to employees about their attendance. This feedback should be given promptly and should be specific and constructive. For instance, if an employee has been absent more often than usual, the manager should meet with them to discuss the issue and offer suggestions on how to improve attendance. This can help the employee to understand the expectations and make necessary changes. 

Unfair Approaches to Employee Well-Being 

Inconsistency in managing employee well-being can hurt both employee morale and productivity. For instance, if you respond to one employee’s request for time off due to stress or illness with understanding and support, but deny another employee’s request for the same reason, this can lead to feelings of mistrust. The same might happen if some employees constantly get leave benefits whereas others never do. It’s important for you to be consistent and understanding in how you approach employee well-being, and to create a culture of support and trust.

There are a few ways that you can address this mistake and ensure that you are being consistent in your approach to employee well-being:

  • Ensure that you have an updated and consistent policy around employee well-being. 
  • Provide consistent support to all employees who are struggling with their well-being, whether that is through offering flexible work arrangements, providing resources for stress management, or offering time off when needed. 

Not Addressing Employee Absences

Another mistake that employers often make is simply ignoring employee absences and hoping that they will resolve themselves. This is usually not the case, and it can lead to frustration and burnout for both the employer and the employee. In addition, it can create a sense of disconnect between the employer and the employee, which can negatively impact morale and overall business success. 

Benefits of Managing Staff Absence Effectively 

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Why is it important to address employee absences

One of the main benefits of managing staff absence is that it can improve employee productivity.  When employees can take time off when needed, without fear of repercussions, they are more likely to come back to work feeling refreshed and ready to be productive. Additionally, when they feel supported by their employer, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated at work. This can lead to better quality work and increased productivity overall. On the other hand, when employees are not given the support they need, they may feel stressed and unmotivated, which can have a negative impact on productivity. 

Additionally, when employees feel like their employer cares about their well-being, they are more likely to have a positive outlook on their job and the company. This can lead to a more positive work environment overall, and a higher level of satisfaction among employees. However, when staff absences are not managed properly, employees may feel like their employer doesn’t care about them, which can lead to feelings of bitterness and dissatisfaction. Another benefit is that managing staff absence can have a positive impact on employee retention. When employees feel supported and valued, they are more likely to stay with the company for a longer period. On the other hand, when staff absences are not managed well, employees may feel like they are not respected, and may look for other opportunities elsewhere. 

Tips for Addressing Presenteeism

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What’s Employee Presenteeism

This means the act of coming to work even when you’re not feeling well. The first step is to create a culture of openness and honesty, where employees feel comfortable discussing their health and well-being with their manager. It’s also important to provide clear guidelines for when it is and is not appropriate to come to work. Additionally, employers should consider implementing flexible working arrangements, such as the option to work from home or take time off when needed.Moreover, one of the most important tips for addressing presenteeism is to lead by example. As such, managers should set the tone by taking their breaks, taking time off when needed, and modelling healthy work habits. This will encourage employees to follow suit and take care of their health. Additionally, managers should be aware of the signs of burnout and stress, and take steps to prevent it from occurring. For example, they can offer regular check-ins and also provide mental health resources. 

FAQs

What can you say to an employee who has attendance issues? 

Start by acknowledging the employee’s effort and commitment, and then express concern for their well-being. Then ask questions to try to understand the root cause of the attendance issues and finally work with the employee to develop a plan to address the issues. 

How do you effectively track staff absences? 

You have to develop a clear leave policy that guides your employees and also make use of reliable attendance-tracking software such as Leave Wizard. 

What constitutes excessive absenteeism? 

This depends on your work policy, but more than three absences without a valid reason within 90 days can be termed as such. 


Managing staff absence can be a challenge, but it’s essential for the health of your business and the well-being of your employees. By avoiding the common mistakes outlined in this article, you can help to boost productivity and efficiency. Remember, it’s important to have clear policies and procedures in place and to always approach the situation with empathy and understanding. By following these tips, you can manage staff absence successfully and create a happier and healthier workplace.