1. COMMITMENT TO ATTENDANCE MANAGEMENT AS AN ORGANIZATIONAL GOAL
Even the best attendance management plans, drafted with great care and attention to the most up-to-date principles, often fail. They fail because there is essentially no commitment to them by senior and middle management. Before the development of an Attendance Management Plan (“AMP”), the work begins with the internal management meeting where the managers are briefed on the costs to the organization of the excessive absenteeism rates. Quantification of the cost to productivity, to morale and to quality of service is a cornerstone of having management understand the cost of poor attendance management. It may also create a desire to invest in an AMP and make it a part of the organization’s goals. Proper attendance management will create not merely savings from greater productivity but, properly administered, such efforts are rewarded by employees becoming more inclined to see the support as evidence they are not merely numbers and are valued contributors.
2. SECURE “LONG-TERM” FUNDING FROM MANAGEMENT
Any AMP will have development, rollout and administrative costs associated with it and there must be a commitment, ideally in the form of a specific budget to provide the required resources to bring AMP’s objectives to fruition and ensure that it is effective. Costs of physicians’ statements, independent medical exams (in justifiable cases), testing and functional assessments are some of the hard costs. It must also be considered whether an attendance management position needs to be created or whether existing HR staff will functionally be able to administer the AMP as designed and intended to operate.
3. DEVELOP “YOUR” PLAN
Do not fall into the approach of so many who have secured the support of management, obtain the requisite financial support and then simply copied someone else’s plan. Your plan needs to reflect your company and its environment, being especially careful to adhere to the principle of fair and consistent application among many classes of employees – some union some not. AMP development requires a determination of the objectives of the company which ought to be realistic. 100 per cent attendance 100 per cent of the time may not be a realistic goal but 97 per cent attendance 100 per cent of the time may be, depending on the nature of the business. The elements of the AMP may also depend upon the resources available for administration such as health care professionals, addiction resources, occupation therapists, etc.
4. AVOID THE “ROLLS ROYCE” PLAN
Before creating the AMP, identify the nature or the source of absenteeism in your organization and adapt or create an AMP to address those issues. The more elaborate and the more areas the AMP seeks to address, the more dedicated time it will take to administer. Managers required to assist in the administration of an AMP often place such matters lower on their priority of things they need to do. Motivation and engagement of managers, if they are to be involved, must be evaluated because each manager must be as committed to the AMP as the next. If requirements on managers become a burden or appear to them to be “overkill” they will find ways to avoid administering the AMP, creating inconsistent application at best, which can be very problematic in a unionized environment.
5. ENGAGE EVERYONE IN THE PLAN – NON-UNION AND UNION
To succeed, the AMP should be applicable to everyone, not merely a class or group. Equal treatment across all groups creates not only an understanding of how serious senior management are in ensuring the well-being of employees without regard for status in the company but demonstrates that all are treated evenly.
6. ENSURE YOUR POLICY IS NOT VIEWED AS A MEANS TO FORCE EMPLOYEES WHO ARE UNWELL TO WORK
The AMPs that succeed focus upon the well-being of the employee. Generally, an employee’s well-being physically and emotionally results in regular attendance. The AMP must recognize this and be promoted on rollout as having a focus on the employee’s well-being and promotion of consistent regular attendance at work through that well¬being. An AMP needs to be part of the investigative tools to facilitate an understanding of the root causes of the absenteeism and set a course to correct or remove those causes and promote regular, consistent attendance.
7. ROLL OUT THE AMP TO ALL EMPLOYEES
It is important that the AMP be published and internal meetings held to review the AMP and how it will be applied in the workplace. The presenter has to have intimate knowledge of the AMP and the ability to speak to, and answer questions about it, provide some examples or an outline as to how an employee would fall under the AMP and possible ways of proceedings with the employee. The key messages should be fair and consistent treatment and compliance with the AMP, any applicable collective agreement(s) and SOPs of the organization.
8. ESTABLISH CLEAR POLICIES ON ADMINISTRATION OF THE AMP
Depending upon how detailed your AMP is, it is frequently necessary to supplement the AMP text with standard policies of application, adherence to which will greatly assist in consistent application regardless of whoever is responsible for administering the AMP. This is particularly necessary where frontline managers have initial responsibility to deal with absenteeism. Such policies should establish a requirement of reporting the absence by the employee to his/her supervisor or to a centralized contact before commencement of the employee’s shift. In addition, the employer could require an online medical leave request form together with a job description to be taken to the health care provider to be completed and returned to excuse the absence or justify his return to work. The form, whether required at point of first visit or later, to address accommodation issues needs to be functionally based and permit space for identification of restrictions for medication, physical and/or mental impairments.
9. BALANCE THE NEED FOR CONSISTENT APPLICATION AND UNIFORMNESS WITH INDIVIDUAL CIRCUMSTANCES
Although it is very important to ensure the AMP is applied uniformly and consistently, particularly in a unionized environment, it is equally important to treat each individual as an individual. Employers seen to be focusing on the individual are less likely to have resistance from the employee group. For example, if the employer becomes aware that an employee suffers from a chronic disease that flares up from time to time, the employee may not necessarily be required to produce a physician’s statement each time the condition prevents the employee from attending work. Instead, such an employee may be requested to provide a medical update on, for example, a six-month basis on the functional limitations then necessary to be considered in accommodation.
10. CREATE A WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT WHERE THE PLAN IS PART OF THE CULTURE OF THE WORKPLACE
The culture of a workplace can be a significant ally in the adoption and understanding of any AMP. Many employers in offshore oil and gas and generally in the petroleum industry have created a culture in their workplaces where it is taken for granted that drugs and alcohol have no place in the workplace. That is not to say that they have been completely eliminated from those workplaces; unlike many other industries the sustained effort of employers in offshore oil and gas (and consistent application of consequences) to address alcohol and drugs in the workplace makes those who engage in such substances viewed by other employees as a danger to those who do not. Equally, a goal of an AMP should be to demonstrate how excessive absenteeism impairs the productivity, placing additional burdens on those who attend and jeopardizes the reputation of the employer to deliver the services – thereby jeopardizing the livelihood of all.
More importantly, it is necessary to demonstrate that, in dealing with the problem of absenteeism, the AMP provides individualized fair treatment to assess whether the relationship can be viable on a go-forward basis.