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Absence epidemic due to childcare issues

Jill Rosemary

| 112 Posts

Chartered Member

31 Jul, 2013 12:05

Our warehouse staff have been for some time now citing childcare problems as a reason for either a) being absent from work or b) leaving unexpectedly under the pretext that their child or partner is not well.  Our warehouse staff are all male, we have no females employed in the warehouse.  Their manager and supervisor have become aggrieved at the time taken off and have stressed that they believe it has now reached epidemic proportions! as in it is seen to be the ideal way to take a day off without claiming that they were sick themselves and therefore avoiding disciplinary action for absence.  This continues on to some leaving work mid shift because their partner (who is pregnant) or their child is unwell.  It is that fine line of being an understanding employer but also the need to balance this with the business also has to come first.  All of this is unplanned absence and exceptionally disruptive on the floor.  I have advised that although an employer should be seen to be understanding at the outset, there has to also be by the manager a proper management of absence with unfortunately repeat offenders perhaps facing disciplinary action where deemed appropriate.  The question that has been posed to me is "how many times is reasonable" again not an easy one to answer as each case has to be take on individual merit and reason.  Just wondering if any of you have this problem and what you do to manage it etc... 

  • Anna

    | 932 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    31 Jul, 2013 12:13

    Jill, research evidence suggests that most workplace cultures make it much harder for men to balance their work and family responsibilities and many simply don't ask for time off. You are therefore to be congratulated for having a culture that appears to support men in their paternal roles.

    Having said that, you do have a business to run. Rather than take a backward step in terms of the culture, could you get all the warehouse workers together and have them discuss how the situation could be resolved?

    Kind regards

    Anna

  • Elizabeth

    | 1376 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    31 Jul, 2013 12:15

    Do you pay staff for absences of this type? I'd be wary of disciplining anyone for exercising a statutory right without bullet-proof evidence that the right was being abused.
  • Jill Rosemary

    | 112 Posts

    Chartered Member

    31 Jul, 2013 13:40

    No Fiona, the leave would be unpaid.  I am under pressure from the managers of this dept to issue some kind of directive, however I do not wish to do so as it cannot be this simply done.  It is how best to support managements annoyance along with the employees stat rights that is hard to manage...

  • Keith

    | 9249 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    31 Jul, 2013 13:45

    I would at a team briefing stress three points...


    1) the wish of the organisation to support individuals where appropriate in their wider obligations


    2) The impact of little notice frequent absences on production and the productivity of teh teams etc and why this is a problem


    3) What the right to request energency leave is there to cover and what it isn't. Its there to cover emergency situations only and not predictable things (so harshly a child who gets ill once in a blue moon is unpredictable a child who gets ill every week is predictable and the employee should have some alternative arrangements in place).


    I would guess this is a symptom of a wider lack of engagement in the team and I would be looking at that with the manager to solve the long term issues.

  • Jill Rosemary

    | 112 Posts

    Chartered Member

    31 Jul, 2013 14:28

    Keith, you have hit nail on head with the "wider lack of engagement" with team! This doesnt happen in any other department, so yes we have a problem.  I think your idea to bring this up at the next briefing is good, however I still dont think its going to solve the problem.  The point being that all episodes recorded are unpredictable and the amount of episodes is ever increasing! 
  • Keith

    | 9249 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    31 Jul, 2013 15:18

    Jill


    I think you need to treat the cause of the problem rather than this symptom.


    Taking unduely harsh action against the symptom will only make the disease worst.


    Maybe some action teams or focus groups? Have you done an employee survey? Whats the quality of management like? etc


    Keith

  • Jill Rosemary

    | 112 Posts

    Chartered Member

    1 Aug, 2013 09:19

    Keith, I did the survey last year and had a poor overall response from that department.  I issued it again this year and had a limited response from them.  Main cause of discontent was lack of communication. We have monthly team briefings, team building days, lunch is on the company days, football tournaments in house etc none of which addressing underlying cause of discontent...  I feel the problem may be with their manager who is more of a figures guy, however we have recently taken on an assistant manager who is very much a people person so maybe working with him will help change things.  Need to look into employee engagement more, the rest of the company is a happy ship, just our warehouse team that has gone off the radar. 
  • Hi Jill,

    Do you use absence statements / return to work interviews etc? If people have to answer questions when they return to work it might weadle out those that have genuine reasons and those that are starting to take advantage.  A sit down with the manager if someone is repeatedly taking time off doesn't have to be a 'telling off', it can demonstrate that the business is concerned for them so you're still being the supportive employer whilst being seen to act on repeated absence which may deter others that aren't so genuine.

    Hannah

  • Jill Rosemary

    | 112 Posts

    Chartered Member

    1 Aug, 2013 14:09

    Hi Hannah, yes we do all that....thanks, will keep battling on!
  • Keith

    | 9249 Posts

    Chartered Fellow

    1 Aug, 2013 16:14

    Jill


    Try just getting 4/5 of them together and having a chat? Clearly engagement is an issue (and you are probably right the manager is at core of most engagement issues one way or another)


    Sounds like you have lots of the levers already but they are not pulling on the right things :-)


    So you just need to attack another way.


    Good luck


    Keith

  • Hi Jill

    i am having the exact same issues with my warehouse staff.  I would be very interested in what you done with the survey.  I am new to this and still studying my degree.  

    It is so annoying but like others ave said your hands are tied due to their right.

     Debbie 

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