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Published May 16, 2017 (last updated on June 12, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Copywriter and Content Creator

The employment relationship between you and your employees is based on trust and mutual respect. This relationship has the potential to be broken, potentially permanently, over the issue of prolonged and unscheduled absenteeism. While New Zealand’s key piece of employment law, the Employment Relations Act 2000, does not define employee absenteeism, it is commonly referred to as the constant and habitual absence from work.

What is absenteeism at work?

When an employee is not present at work for a prolonged and habitual time during a normally scheduled work period; without warning or reason, this is considered absenteeism.

Normally, workplace absences are compensated when their frequency and rationale fall within the guidelines established in the workplace attendance policy. These compensated absences may depend upon certain required employee actions such as seeking permission for scheduled absences from work in advance, or making direct contact to report an unscheduled absence within reasonable and agreed timelines and expectations.

Some businesses also require a doctor’s note or written notice when an employee unexpectedly misses work. Excused absences are acceptable for such events as annual leave, sick leave or medical appointments, family activities, jury duty, funerals and more.

Managing employee absenteeism

The issue of absenteeism is difficult to manage as it can be due to a number of reasons, and may be an indication of something bigger going on in an employee’s life. For example, an employee may be consistently absent offering no explanation for their absence as they try and deal with a personal issue. In some cases the issue of consistent absenteeism can lead employers to believe an employee has abandoned their employment.

The assumption that an employee has abandoned their employment based on their absenteeism can be a big mistake, and if you suspect this is the case the first thing you should do is try and contact the employee. If the issue results in you terminating their employment you can be exposed to an investigation by the Employment Relations Authority and you will need to prove you tried every avenue to contact the employee.

Again, where you suspect employee absenteeism, communication is vital and all attempts, whether they are successful contact or not, it must be documented.

Employee absenteeism can be expensive and the loss of productivity can damage your business, but the way you address absenteeism is quite important, especially if the employee feels they are being disadvantaged at all.

To ensure your policies are in place, or for advice on how to manage absenteeism in your workplace, contact Peninsula on 0800 568 012.

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