Western Cape Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  30 Jun 2011

LABOUR: How To Manage Absenteeism


Recent Western Cape Business News

Young people and females in particular have the highest work absenteeism rate in South Africa.

Assisting over 60 South African organisations manage absenteeism in the workplace has helped Lerato Motshudi, Medical Advisor, Alexander Forbes Health, identify some interesting trends in absenteeism in South Africa. 

Young couples with small children, especially young mothers, are the most likely to be absent from work during school holidays or due to domestic demands. That said young people in general, whether single or living with a partner, also need very little incentive to miss a day’s work - especially before or after weekends or public holidays. Absenteeism numbers are even higher in winter.

According to Dr Motshudi, absenteeism is one of the major drivers of lost revenue for companies in South Africa. As such, “if managers don’t understand and manage this problem it can have major implications for productivity and ultimately balance sheets.”

The first step in dealing with absenteeism is to put systems in place to monitor and analyse its occurrence. Once data is available, managers can use this to identify problem areas and take appropriate action.  Keeping tabs and developing data helps businesses to identify “how many of which employees, in what areas of specialisation, gender, and age group are costing the company the most in absenteeism” says Dr. Motshudi. The purpose is not to victimize any employees but rather to get a better understanding of where absenteeism is costing the business and to help managers develop interventions that identify and then correctly tackle the correct drivers of absenteeism.

The worst thing to do is nothing.

Our experience has shown that absenteeism can be reduced once the right people are engaged sympathetically on the issue. If ignored it only increases” says Dr. Motshudi. 

Every person has a unique set of circumstances that may cause them to skip work. Understanding these circumstances and developing solutions that directly address the causes of absenteeism often takes time. This is why “many companies choose to outsource the management of absenteeism, or consult experts to help develop the best ways to deal with it” says Dr Motshudi.

Certainly, the drivers of absenteeism differ hugely between companies or even within companies and can be driven by a range of factors within a business.

For example, one division of a business may experience higher than average absenteeism rates because of a unique managerial issue whereas another department may not have a manager who struggles with staff relations and therefore does not have the same rate of absenteeism. Alternately, a company dealing with hazardous goods may experience high absenteeism in a particular area because safety standards are not being properly implemented, increasing injuries and driving up absenteeism.

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