“They can’t go to school today”: 5 steps towards managing parental absenteeism in the workforce.

managing parental absenteeism








It’s an impossible moment to plan for. When you wake up on a Monday morning to get ready for work, only to find your child is feeling too ill to attend school or day care.

As a country where 7.3 million children live in a household with both caregivers in full time work (Department of Education, 2016), it’s a scenario that has implications for most organisations.

So, what should you, as a business, do to help when an employee faces this unexpected circumstance?

1. Be empathetic: One of the biggest factors effecting employee retention is the quality of the relationship with management, so when you are talking try to remember that this is often a stressful time, both personally and professionally, for a caregiver. Avoid a negative tone and thank your employee for informing you so promptly. Cases like the Royal Bank of Scotland plc v. Harrison Employment Appeal Tribunal highlights the importance of handling request for time off carefully and considerately.

2. Take an individualised approach: Every employee is different, so it’s important to take this into consideration before deciding on a solution. You should never penalise an employee for taking time of to care for a dependent, but it can be useful to take factors such as previous absenteeism, length of employment, and type of contract into consideration when brokering a suitable solution.

3. Assess the options: Does the employee have friends or family they can call on for help? Alternative childcare is a straightforward way to avoid any absenteeism that might affect the company and ensures that your employee can still work with peace of mind. Sharing the responsibility can also be useful, is there another person who could split the care with your employee to reduce the amount of leave?

4. Keep up to date with relevant employee rights: If your employee can’t find alternative childcare, it’s important to know what kind of leave is applicable to them. All employees have the right to time off for dependants to deal with unforeseen circumstances or emergencies, so it’s usually a matter of deciding on the best fit for both them and the business. There are regulations in place concerning parental leave, flexible working requests, short notice annual leave, and other forms of authorised absence, so being aware of this can create a smoother process to finding a solution.

5. Minimise the impact: After a solution has been agreed on, it’s useful to find ways to reduce the effect it will have on the business. Depending on the structure of the organisation, this can be as simple as covering a shift, reassigning work or rearranging meetings but take care to find a balance between individualised and collective management.

It’s good to bear in mind that these steps can not only ease the process of organising unexpected absence for dependents, but also improve general morale and the overall relationship between employer and employee. So, the next time your employee faces the dreaded “I don’t feel too good”, try implementing some of these steps for a simpler, stress-free process.

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