Curtailing Unauthorized Leaves

We all give value to punctuality and regularity because of its supreme importance in all spheres of life. That’s why productivity is by and large linked with punctuality and regularity so that its significance is realized by the employees. It is usually observed that the employees tend to avail unauthorized leaves i.e. taking leaves without prior permission/notification.Unauthorized leaves
Therefore to curtail such happenings, the management formulates certain sets of policies to ensure smooth running of its daily operations and for that, every staff member is required to comply with the stated company’s norms and values.
However, if such a situation arises where employees are taking unauthorized leaves, particularly when there isn’t any suitable standby resource available for the absent one, then it can create certain problems which need to be addressed beforehand.
My question is, what can be done to curtail such incidents? Furthermore, how can absence policies be positively communicated to the employees to ensure a more productive workforce?


  • There should be strict adherance to the policy. period. If an employee knows that he/she is availing unauthorized leaves, and is well aware that there is no standby in his/her place, then, unless there is a genuine reason like a medical emergency or death in the family, such a person should be reprimanded.
    It is ideal that when such a situation, first arises, i.e. where is no valid reason, the supervisor should have a serious talk with the employee, and drop a line in the background, that a repeat behavior may trigger a show cause notice. It is never easy to regulate such behavior and not step on toes, but what has to be done, has to be done.
    Ideally, there should not be total dependency on one person. There should always be a backup. It is sad when supervisors do not adequately train and guide their reportees to tackle such situations. HR departments should always ensure that back ups exist to deal with exigent situations in the company.
    Please note that i am not an HR person so my input is generic based on my experience.
    Kind Regards.

  • Karen Cornelius

    Hi, Salima
    First, I am making an assumption that by ‘unauthorised leave’ you are thinking about employees taking a day or two off for a variety of reasons without prior notification or approval — versus someone who simply disappears for a week or a prolonged block of time (e.g., going off to an unauthorised educational program, holiday, etc).
    I have encountered two kinds of situations regarding excessive absenteeism. First, where there are a relatively small handful of chronic offenders. In this situation, we advise the supervisors of the involved employees and HR to use individual counseling — attempting to help employees identify and resolve problems contributing to their absenteeism (and referring them to other services that have appropriate specialised knowledge (e.g., drug and alcohol counseling)– and, if necessary, employing a performance management process. We find that all too often, to avoid having difficult individual discussions, managers and HR prefer the company to issue a blanket policy, which a large number of employees may feel is based on negative assumptions about their trustworthiness and commitment.
    If a company is having a widespread absenteeism issue, I think the first step is to understand why, rather than applying more policies. We find that high absenteeism is frequently a symptom of a demoralised, demotivated, stressed, frustrated or even alienated workforce. Changing the culture and removing the causes of these reactions are a far more effective way of reducing absenteeism than writing and enforcing policies.
    Additionally the composition of the workforce and pressures on families have shifted dramatically over the past decade or so. We now have predominantly two income families in which both breadwinners must also share responsibilities for childcare/sick children, elder care and trying to balance family and worklife.
    Hence a number of our more progressive clients are rethinking and rewriting their policies to provide more flexibility to employees. For example, one client has defined ‘core hours’ when everyone is supposed to be present (or available by conference call) for their teams — for planning, reviews, problem-solving, collaborating etc. But beyond these core hours, people can use flex-time — arranging their schedules to come in early or come in late and work late, etc, or take time out to attend to personal business then return and put in the ‘owed’ hours. This provides invaluable options for attending to personal business/issues without missing an entire day or days. One other key element is that employees are expected to share their schedules/plans with their teams/work groups, and plan how any ‘critical’ absences are going to be covered.
    For this particular client, over the course of the three years we worked with them, absenteeism decreased substantially, as did the impact of absenteeism on delivery of projects or work outputs, job-satisfaction skyrocketed, and retention rates improved significantly.
    Obviously, this system isn’t applicable to all work environments, but even with assembly lines, if strong and semi-autonomous work teams are created and sustained, they can manage to provide members some flexibility and coverage.

  • Chris Kulbaba

    I agree with Subhas to a point…
    1. Determine the local employment laws around absenteeism and emergency or personal leaves, to ensure you are not contravening any employment standards
    2. Determine why the absenteeism is happening – is there a trend or root cause that can be solved before introduction of a policy
    3. If you are introducing a policy, post it in a conspicuous place, and let the workplace staff know there will be training sessions around it after a time, I would say a month. Then train the staff and have them sign off on the training so you have due diligence in place if you are dealing with a Union (otherwise they can easily say that there was no understanding on the part of their member).
    4. Part of the new policy should be a graduated discipline tree, where the continued infractions get more time off, but as well there should be a time line on the discipline – it is wiped after 18 months of good behaviour.
    5. Track and counsel the repeat offenders. They need a performance review, where the behaviours that are not good are explained, and a plan in place for succeeding and meeting expectations is drawn up and signed by each party. Again, due diligence as to effective communication of expectations, but ensure they are not feeling under duress.
    6. Realize that it will take time, and ensure that the entire organization follows the policy. Managers should report infractions, however to remove the interpersonal problems HR should be dealing with resolutions.
    I made this very brief, almost skeletal, but the other item is to determine the percentage of absenteeism across the organization, and how far out from average are the offenders. This will go to accrediting the discipline taken as well. A rule of thumb for an average absenteeism is around 3-4% (2000 hrs multiplied by 3% is 60 hours) which results in about one day per month and a half. Any more than this, there may be other factors at work, and perhaps there is a familial situation or other stressor in the workplace or at home. Also, having a good Employee Assistance Program will help to alleviate some stressors as well.
    However, if they are just taking time off, that is not good, and the progressive discipline will handle that problem.

Leave a Reply