Although there is no magic number of absences that equate to excessive absenteeism, there are a number of factors to consider which can lead to a determination that absenteeism is excessive. The factors listed below should be reviewed and considered as indicators of possible excessive absenteeism. If one or more of the factors indicate a possible problem, the employee should be interviewed to determine whether there are acceptable reasons for the absenteeism. Contact Employee & Labor Relations for advice in interpreting the factors and in reviewing any reasons cited by the employee.
- Sick Leave Usage in the Current Year. If an employee has used 80% or more of the sick leave he/she has accrued in the current year, there may be a problem of excessive absenteeism. Obviously, this indicator becomes more of a concern as the year progresses (an employee who misses one day in the third pay period of the year will have used more than 100% of the 7.4 hours accrued in the first 2 pay periods). As noted above, 10 single-day absences throughout the year are more of a concern than a single illness/injury that results in a 10-day absence.
- Sick Leave Usage since Date of Hire. If an employee has used 90% or more of the sick leave he/she has accrued since being hired, there may be a problem of excessive absenteeism. In reviewing this factor, you will want to consider any major illness, injury, or maternity/paternity (parental) leave that may have caused the high usage.
In reviewing the above two factors, you will want to look at them together. For example, if an employee has worked for the County for 10 years and has used 95% of the sick leave accrued year to date, but has only used 50% of the total sick leave accrued, it might indicate a one-time blip in usage. Alternately, it may indicate an employee who plans on resigning and wants to use up accrued leave prior to separation, which is not appropriate unless substantiated by a medical professional. On the other hand, you may have an employee who has used 95% of total sick leave but only 25% of this year’s accrual. This may indicate that the employee is making a concerted effort to improve.
- Patterned Sick Leave Usage. If you identify an employee with a pattern of sick leave usage you need to review this situation as a potential problem, even if the employee’s usage does not reach the 80%-90% thresholds described above. You may find employees who call in sick on Mondays or Fridays, on the day after a holiday or a holiday weekend, or on days on which workload is particularly heavy or on which a specific job task (such as a monthly report) is due.
- Sick Leave Usage in Combination with Vacation. An employee may call in sick on the first day they are due to return from a vacation. It is strongly recommended that you notify the employee when they call in that they need to produce a physician’s statement indicating the date they were seen by the physician and certifying that the illness precluded him/her from reporting to work on that date.
There are also situations where an employee will call in sick on days for which they had previously requested vacation time off and their request had been denied. In these cases, you will certainly want to require a physician’s statement as described above. You should also call Employee & Labor Relations to determine whether further investigation is warranted.
- Impact on Operations. Any time an employee’s absenteeism adversely impacts service delivery, there is a potential issue of excessive absenteeism. In determining whether to take action, you will want to consider such factors as the reason for the absences and whether there is reasonable back-up for the absent employee. For example, if the employee is a receptionist assigned responsibility for opening the office each day and there is no back-up assigned, even a single day of sick leave could adversely impact service delivery. This standard is clearly not reasonable and we would not be able to sustain disciplinary action based on occasional absences because we had failed to plan back-up coverage. In situations where absenteeism impacts operations, contact Employee & Labor Relations for guidance.