One of the greatest factors to have plagued the smooth functioning of any organization is “Absenteeism”. While labour intensive industries suffer the most, even the most minimalistic business or corporation suffer when there is a lack of control over the rate of absenteeism. This is due to the fact that the co-operation of workers is essential for the good health of any organisation. Sometimes, labour turnover and absenteeism become a major problem for the management. The exit of workers or their absence from work disrupts production schedules. Any make shift arrangement for absent workers will be a costly affair for the enterprise.
The term ‘Absenteeism’ refers to the absence of an employee from work. It is generally used to refer to unscheduled employee absences from the workplace. While the general problem is defined as being a result of personal illness or family issues, absenteeism also can often be traced to other factors such as a poor work environment or workers who are not committed to their jobs. If such absences become excessive, they can have a seriously adverse impact on a business’s operations and, ultimately, its profitability. This is seen in the fact that absenteeism is expensive such that it nationally costs $505 per employee per year.
The problem also lies in the fact that in an ordinary work force, if the management doesn’t manage its human resources in a systematic and employee friendly manner, the workers will begin to care less about the amount of leave they take in a month since at that point, being absent from work may seem like a small matter to the employee. If we consider a college environment to understand the problem, if a single day needs 50 teachers to manage the teaching of all the students in a 5 year course, and 20 of the total 50 are absent most of the time, that unit’s work will not get done and the teaching planned for the day will remain pending adding to the burden of the teachers as more will have to be completed the next day as the entire schedule gets disrupted.
If that happens, the college may also have to call on additional teachers. And if that is the rate in a single college, nationally, 7.2 days per employee are lost to absenteeism each year. Thus, it’s a major problem faced by almost all employers of today. Employees are absent from work and thus the work suffers. Absenteeism of employees from work leads to back logs, piling of work and thus work delay. Understanding this factor, it is clearly the responsibility of the Human Resource Department to communicate the attendance policy clearly to the employees. At the same time, it has to develop HR policies to raise the motivation levels of employees and decrease absenteeism due to culpable reasons.
The company should take steps to engage the employees so that they enjoy their work and are absent only for genuine reasons. So, while it used to be seen as a management problem and was framed in economic or quasi-economic terms, today, more recent research seeks to recognize absenteeism as an indicator of psychological, medical or social adjustment to work, thus magnifying the root cause of the problem so that the Human Resource Department of organizations can develop plans and policies to tackle the problem and keep productivity functioning.
A study on absenteeism of Indian Labour by the famous online magazine “Everyday Life” found that the basic cause of absenteeism in India is that industrial worker is still considered a part-time peasant job. With this mind-set, the general condition of working isn’t improving and the workforce seems more dissatisfied because of which most of the workers go to find jobs in cities.
The usual reasons listed for absence on a day are:
· Bad health condition of employee or his family members like spouse, children and parents.
· Family concern disputes and problems.
· On occasions of this family relatives.
· Demise of close family members or relatives.
· Appearing for examination if he is pursuing further education for career development or promotions.
· Sometimes due to financial problems.
· Going on vacation is visiting other places.
· Exceeds number of late comings limit fixed by the organisation. (say for example, any organisations marks absent for an employee who comes late continuously for three times. For this reason most of employees gets absent if they were late to office for third time.)
· On the Day of sports events especially cricket.
While these are the reasons given by the employee, employers have found that based on feedback, the reasons are:
· Lack of satisfaction from present work
· Poor working conditions
· longer working hours
· Dominating Boss & Seniors
· Non Cooperating peers
· Higher expectation
· No growth prospects in present Company
· Excess Work Stress
The effects of the absenteeism of workers in organizations affect employers, where the cost of production of the factory is increased because of the regular and untimely absence of the workers leading to extra temporary staff being employed in order to replace the absentee. But, these effects of absenteeism in the workplace are directly proportionate to decreased productivity. The company, eventually, is trying to cover up the direct and indirect cost involved to hire temporary staff, and pay employees for overtime.
So the cost of the production of the company is increased as the result they increase the price of the commodity, so the consumers have to pay high price for the commodities. However, the workers themselves also suffer because their income is reduced according to the principle of “no work no pay”. As a result, their standard of living diminishes. A high degree of absenteeism and turnover can cause serious problems for businesses. Absenteeism hurts productivity and costs money.
For example, consider a manufacturing company which is currently suffering a high degree of absenteeism in its production department. If the employees on the assembly line are often absent, the production employees will have to operate complex machinery that requires training, and since they are only temporary employees who don’t have the requisite skills to compensate for absent operators. Thus, production decreases with each absent employee. This costs the company money. Also, if most of the absences are paid leave, even though production is down, labour costs will remain the same.
Due to this, turnover becomes a more serious problem for this company. Not only can turnover cause productivity problems, but it results in the loss of human resources that may not be easily replaced. For example, some of the company’s best and most innovative engineers and researchers may voluntarily separate from service to pursue other opportunities. Loss of these employees not only hurts productivity but weakens the company strategically because of the specialized skills and creativity that the employees brought with them. Even if the company can find the same quality of workers, the search, training and time involves and costs serious cash.
Some of the major factors that impacted their interest to attend work on a regular/daily basis focussed around their need to work. When a family earns more or has more working members within the family, the need for each of them to attend work regularly diminishes as there is no immediate or urgent need for money. Once that need doesn’t arise, the other factors of lack of job interest and disinterest or job fatigue affect the desire to work. This is evident from the fact that statistically in India, the problem of absenteeism is more rampant in urban areas and amongst upper middle class and above, while the rural area working class and lower class of workers are more regular to work since their earnings become a source of food and survival on a day to day basis.
However, since this factor of need cannot be externally influenced by the HRM department in an organization, it instead needs to focus on the internal factors of motivation to ensure rate of absenteeism is low. One such way is that the department must ensure that employees are given suitable training and an extensive explanation of what their work entails and what they need to achieve as a single unit of the organization. Once this is done, workers are now more clear of what their daily goals are, and what work needs to be completed in a day. This not only pressures them to achieve these targets by going to work regularly, but also creates clarity to work harder, with more application of experience and knowledge, thus motivating them to take fewer days off.
Another major issue that the study finds is that since the Indian Labour and Employment Laws only give private company employees 24 days of permitted leave in a year, the fact that workers aren’t given holidays during most festivals, it creates discontent as the desire to work on such days is less, leading to more leaves taken on such occasions. Private organizations need to manage such permitted vacations in such a way that the company either gives more holidays in a month, or ensures that they are planned to coincide with holidays or vacations so that employees could spend more of the time with friends and family which will keep them content and motivated to work regularly.
The HRM department also needs to efficiently improve the system of leave application. When employees feel that such a procedure is too slow or tedious, after a while the disinterest to want to follow that procedure will lead to more number of unscheduled leaves being taken as they will attempt to skip the procedure. To also reduce such feelings of disinterest, factors such as work place proximity, or shorter work hours. If employees feel like the transportation to their work place is time consuming and tiresome, it will discourage them from wanting to make that journey on certain days, leading to absenteeism.
Arranging for a common mode of transport for these employees or make provisions for them to leave earlier will keep them content. Once such hurdles have been overcome, the department can then look to increase non-monetary benefits, improve performance appraisal and improve working conditions. This will immediately create interest and job satisfaction, and employees will be absent less.
-Contributed by Dylan Sharma
Picture Credits: uitp.org