Sarah Clark, Senior HR Consultant
Some people may just be unlucky, others may not be very good at managing their lives or may not take personal responsibility for this, others may be disengaged from your organisation and relishing an opportunity not to be at work, and others may not help themselves, by leading chaotic lives and not taking responsibility to sort them out so as to meet their obligations under their contract of employment.
Regardless of what the underlying cause is, there are a few things that you can guarantee:
1) the impact of an “if its not one thing it’s another” employee will be felt by those that they work with: extra work, having to cover and make excuses on their behalf.
2) it will make your team and organisation look unprofessional.
3) unless you have an explicit way of managing these employees their absence will fit into every loop hole within your attendance policies, leaving you pulling your hair out and feeling powerless to do anything to make this better.
So…how can you deal with this?
Check your policies. Make sure that your attendance policies allow you to manage attendance issues where the causes of unreliability are mixed – lateness, sickness, other unauthorised leave…we call this “a pattern of unreliability”. By doing so, you can deal with the “if its not one thing its another” employees without being tied in knots with the loopholes in your own process.
Don’t allow your staff’s unauthorised absences to masquerade as authorised leave. You may think that there is no harm in allowing staff to retrospectively use their annual leave rather than have their non-attendance recorded as unauthorised leave, particularly if this means that they will have less annual leave to take and it allows you to massage your attendance figures. However, unless you log every incident of where a staff member is late or takes unauthorised absence, you will not be able to confidently demonstrate where someone has a pattern of unreliability. And you will not be able to provide reliable comparative data in relation to other staff to show that you are not treating the “if its not one thing its another” employee – or indeed any other employees – unfairly.
Hold a return to work discussion regardless of what the issue is. This can be as straightforward as a quick, courteous discussion when someone returns, “How did Clucky get on at the vet?”, “How is little Flossie now?” to a more detailed conversation around more significant issues: “How did your Nan’s funeral go?”, “How are you feeling now?”, “Is there anything that we can do to support you?”. By doing this, not only are you acting in a supportive way, but you are also identifying that the absence has been noted and engaging staff in a conversation about it.