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Ontario Employer Advisor Keeping Employers Advised on Developments in Labour and Employment Law

From the Desk of the HR Manager, June 2014

Posted in Policies
Melissa Kennedy

Melissa Kennedy is a labour relations, employment and human resources specialist who assists clients with proactively managing compliance, risk and ensuring best practices are in place.

Regular attendance is key to maintaining a successful, productive organization.  A full-time job cannot be performed by a part-time employee. An employee should be expected to come to work ready to perform the requirements of their job every day; excessive tardiness and absenteeism cannot be tolerated. Managing employee attendance is critical in maintaining an efficient and effective workforce, and creates a number of challenges for organizations.

Perhaps the most significant challenge presented by poor attendance is the impact to overall productivity. If employees cannot be depended on to come to work when scheduled, operations may be short-handed, which can lead to unnecessary costs. Additionally, other employees may be forced to take-on more work in order to compensate for the missing individual. This can have impacts on overall employee morale and engagement, where there may be a perception that the absent employee is not pulling their weight, or is being given special treatment.

Accordingly, managing attendance effectively should be a key priority for all employees. Here are some tips:

  1. Implement an attendance management policy and program which establishes expectations and identifies specific, progressive consequences for each level of infraction. Make sure it distinguishes between culpable and non-culpable absences.[i] For example, generally speaking, employees cannot be penalized for non-culpable absences (e.g. statutory leaves).
  2. Consistently apply and enforce that policy. Employers must be diligent and consistent in managing absenteeism, but it is important to be fair and flexible.
  3. The Employer has a statutory obligation to accommodate employees who are disabled. There may also be a requirement under a collective agreement. In meeting this obligation, employers should alter or modify work methods or schedules, as well as make facilities accessible wherever possible. Ensure that any accommodation is based on dialogue with the employee and that the employee is providing the necessary information (see next point) so that the accommodation can work.
  4. Wherever possible, it is recommended that medical documentation be provided by a specialist who is treating the employee, rather than simply a note from the individual’s family doctor. Remember that some collective agreements have restrictions on obtaining medical information. Employers should be diligent in ensuring employees justify their absence and in determining the employee’s restrictions and functional abilities, as they may be able to accommodate the individual.
  5. Document, document, document! Keep records which account for all interactions regarding an employee’s record of absenteeism.

 


[i] There are two types of absenteeism: culpable and non-culpable (or innocent). Culpable absenteeism refers to an unexcused absence for which the employee is blameworthy (e.g. sleeping in, no call/no show). Non-culpable (or innocent) absenteeism, refers to a recognized and approved excused absence (e.g. vacation, bereavement, etc.).