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How to Manage Unplanned Absence in the Workplace

Absenteeism affects every UK business, but its complexity resists even the top economists’ understanding. Experts tally its impact on the UK economy between 18 and 77 billion pounds per year, so conscientious firms manage unplanned absence as a top priority. Of course, personnel need time off, and authorised absences maintain productivity and boost morale. However, patterns of absenteeism drain efficiency and fester over time if left unchecked.

Managing unplanned absence requires firms to identify and distinguish types of absences. Understanding the types, causes, and effects of absences gives managers the best chance to streamline firms and support employees and employers alike. Attendance management systems let firms apply this understanding, rewarding punctuality and detecting absenteeism.

Manage Unplanned Absence

The Types of Employee Absence

Authorised Absence

Authorised absence makes employers aware of leave and holidays far in advance. Firms can therefore shift rotas to fill scheduling gaps.

Statutory Annual Leave

UK law gives employees 28 paid holiday per year, including the 8 bank holidays. This reflects the global average, compared with the United States’ zero-days paid leave, and Iran’s generous 57 days.

Parental Leave

While parental leave may disrupt workflow schedules, it’s not exactly a holiday for the new parents involved. Maternity, paternity, and parental leave recognises employees’ humanity, a vital quality for many firms.

Training Days

Training days help build staffing skill sets, supporting career progression and developing a firm’s human resources. While diverting personnel from day-to-day projects, conferences and qualification courses offer unique networking opportunities and pay dividends in the long term.

Unplanned Absence

While unplanned absences create sudden gaps in the workforce, they should be rare and important enough to warrant understanding and compassion. Those who never take time off often burn out or plateau, so managing unplanned absence helps improve the workforce’s long-term trajectories. This often involves contextualising injury and illness leave into the bigger business picture going forward.

Injuries and Illnesses

Public health crises highlight the importance of unplanned illness absence. When ill and infectious employees take time off, they recover quicker and protect the remaining staff. Forcing ill employees into work even with non-infectious diseases, injuries, or critical mental health issues may plaster over short-term productivity lapses, ultimately proving unsustainable for ethical and effective businesses.

Unauthorised absence

Unauthorised absence occurs when employees fail to inform their managers about missing work until during or after the event. Of course, nobody’s perfect, and life often gets in the way. However, when unauthorised absences persist, firms risk their future as a business. Besides no-shows, unauthorised absence also manifests as lateness or time theft.


Lateness, while insignificant in isolation, condemns productivity to death by a thousand cuts if left unchecked. Whether firms pay salaries or hourly wages, lateness disrupts efficiency, lowering the quality and quantity of goods and services produced. Deeper problems also foster lateness as a symptom, so firms should manage unplanned absence to ensure their worker’s wellbeing. Complex issues such as disruptive home lives, poor mental health, and addiction can all cause lateness. Managing unplanned absence, therefore, requires tact and understanding.

Time Theft

Similar to lateness, time theft occurs when workers fraudulently clock in or out early to earn wages while not working. Good faith fosters a trusting, productive working environment, but managers should also stay vigilant to curb time theft’s impact on a firm’s finances.

What Causes Unplanned Absence?

The factors causing unplanned absence often worsen when unnoticed or ignored, requiring firms to intervene before these causes multiply. Low morale and low job satisfaction foster unplanned absence, as well as burnout and toxic work environments. Effective attendance management might well make the difference between business survival and stagnation.

How to Manage Unplanned Absence

Clear communication offers the simplest means to manage unplanned absence. Beyond open-door policies, the best managers anticipate absence patterns and actively intervene in their employees’ best interests. Empathy and understanding go a long way to managing the symptoms and discovering the causes, and effective managers change policies and attendance systems to accommodate sustainable workflows.

Manage Unplanned Absence in Advance

Absence management strategies create an environment that fosters and rewards willing attendance and supports necessary absence. Firms can reduce burnout and dissatisfaction from the outset by clarifying their workflow at the hiring stage. Accurate job descriptions, informative interviews, and transparent contracts all attract passionate staff- simply put, who skives off a job they love?

However, even the keenest workers grow disaffected if managers forget their holiday quotas or fail to reward their hard work. Efficient businesses innovate their attendance management systems to streamline rotas, recognise absences, and give credit where it’s due. Improved management systems facilitate dynamic solutions like flexible hours and remote work.

Presenteeism, or workaholism, also damages mental, physical, and financial health. Managing overworkers as well as absentees helps future-proof businesses with healthy working cultures and sustainable productivity.

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