Managing employee absenteeism

August 2014 Access Control & Identity Management

Unscheduled worker absences are on the increase and many absences occur around holiday periods when employees have children at home.

This pattern of abuse results in lower productivity and incomplete projects for the employer, and lowers staff morale amongst those who work consistently. If left to escalate, legal proceedings waste both time and money. And due to South Africa’s complex labour laws, it can be difficult to confidently discipline those employees with attendance issues.

Legal experts say the first step is a clearly written policy that specifies standards and employee requirements. Be sure to specify that discipline – including termination – may result from repeated leave abuse. It is impossible to list every single potential offence but the following should be included:

* Number of absences, number of times coming in late, and number of early departures, all of which exceed the attendance policy allotment;

* Failing to get permission for leaving early or coming in late;

* Failing to give advance notice of an absence when possible;

* Failing to report an absence properly (attempting to hide an absence), and

* Failing to submit medical certification upon request.

Track time accurately

To legally prosecute or discipline employees, clear and unbiased record keeping is critical. The business owner needs to be able to prove abuse for a specific employee over time. Good recordkeeping can also assist a manager to recognise a problem and intervene before it escalates. For example, is absenteeism higher under a particular supervisor? Only long-term records can identify these trends.

Unfortunately, this type of accurate record keeping is time-consuming. Fellow team members are often the only people who are aware that a certain employee is regularly absent. Identifying, confronting and resolving absence abuse is an unpleasant task, and some supervisors could be too lenient. Others might be complicit in not reporting a late or absent worker in exchange for favours, or due to friendships.


An automated time and attendance tracking system allows busy managers to streamline and simplify timekeeping – collecting, managing and processing time records. Automation reduces supervision costs and is the most effective way to maintain detailed, accurate and up-to-date attendance records.

The introduction of biometric identification specifically has significantly improved documentation and reporting, reduced buddy punching and ensured that policies are applied consistently and fairly for all employees. Instant reporting allows business owners to identify any patterns or trends of absence and provide backup information if legal proceedings become necessary.

Uniclox Technologies’ Attendance Register software is supplied free with many biometric terminals, providing management with basic HR functionality as well.

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