Are You Often Absent From Work? Part 1: How to Improve Your Attendance

Jul 25, 2019

If you’re often absent from work, you’re missing out on money. Your employer is affected by lost productivity, and your coworkers experience the frustration of picking up your slack. We all have things happen sometimes that are out of our control. However, there are situations that we can – and should – plan for. Remember, your boss can find plenty of other people who would make it to work under the same circumstances.

When You Are a Caregiver

Childcare is expensive across the country, costing on average the same per year as tuition at a four-year university. The lack of affordable childcare means many parents turn to community resources, which may break down more often. In addition to children, some employees also take care of elderly family members or those with an illness or disability.

Caregivers miss an average of approximately 4.3 days of work every six months – which is $28.9 billion in wages lost. Missing work once in a while might seem unavoidable. But caregivers should set up a backup option for the times, however rare, their regular care options are unavailable. Some daycare centers offer drop-in childcare as long as you’ve registered in advance. Similarly, eldercare providers have practitioners available for drop-in calls. Sometimes, family members are not willing to provide care on a daily basis but are available to help once in a while.

When You Have Transportation Issues

In the era of Uber and Lyft, there aren’t many acceptable reasons to miss work due to a transportation breakdown. Granted, those options cost money, so your ultimate backup could be walking to work. Showing up late (with prior notice to your employer) is better than not showing up at all. Most employers will appreciate that you made an effort to attend work despite your difficulty getting there.

If you are involved in a car accident, let your employer know as soon as it is safe to do so. Your responsibility is to remain onsite until the police come or until the matter is resolved, but a “heads up” to your employer will be appreciated. If a loved one is in a serious accident, communicate that with your employer and request time off from work to help handle the situation.

When You or a Family Member is Sick

Again, it’s better to go to work for a few hours if at all possible, even when you’re sick. Your supervisor may ask you to go home, but that is better than skipping the entire day just because you aren’t feeling 100%.

Employers are human, too, and are likely to be sympathetic to your situation. For example, if you were up all night because you were taking care of a sick family member, you should tell your employer why you’re not at your best. (If you’re burned out and overworked, you’ll need to find a time to address this with your boss.)

Let your employer know in advance if you need to miss some work (or a full day) due to a medical appointment or treatment. This inspires trust in you that you’re not faking it when the time comes.

If you or a family member are facing a serious illness or other extended health issue, look into your rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If you are eligible, you can take 12 weeks off – all at once or over a 12 month period – beyond the sick time your company allows. There are rules around what the leave can be used for and which employees are eligible based on company size and length of employment. Be sure to check with your HR department to create a plan.

When You Are Called for Jury Duty

Federal and state laws allow employees to take a leave of absence to serve as a juror. Many states protect employees from losing their jobs due to absence for jury duty. Most employers have a jury duty policy that outlines whether leave will be paid and how much notice is required. Some companies choose not to allow paid leave to be used since jury duty is a paid civic duty.

When You Have a Home Emergency

Sometimes appliances break, or the roof leaks, or a storm damages your home. There are times when taking care of home matters during work hours is unavoidable. The best course of action is to alert your supervisor as soon as possible, and try to provide an estimate of the time you will miss. If possible, once the situation is stabilized, have another family member or trusted friend stay at your house while work is performed. 

When a Loved One Passes Away

Employers understand that when a loved one passes away, you will need time to grieve and possibly help handle their affairs. Many companies have a bereavement leave policy outlining how many days off are provided to each employee. These policies also should state which family members (grandparent, parent, child, and spouse are common) the leave applies to.

A Final Note

Mark Twain said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Don’t lie to your employer! You could lose your job – especially in this era of social media, when employers can see your actions and whereabouts (even if you have strong privacy settings).

If you’re tempted to miss work simply because you are unhappy in your position, schedule a time to talk to your manager. If you can’t change your circumstances for the better, a new job might be a better fit for you. Contact a recruiter to see how they can help find your next step.

Written by: Sarah Perlman

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