Just like high blood pressure is referred to as the silent killer, so, too, can absenteeism from work be regarded in a similar vein. It’s an administrative burden on Managers who need to be constantly aware of who the serial offenders are, monitor trends and ensure that whatever action they may take is fair and reasonable.

As much as R16 billion is said to be lost annually in South Africa due to absenteeism. SEIFSA, long known for its industrial relations expertise – and helping companies out of difficult situations such as strike action –acknowledges that absenteeism is a much more contagious phenomenon. Where strike action is loud and visible and provides gripping visuals for the evening television news, absenteeism gets under businesses’ skins, creeps into the culture and becomes a bottom-line killer. Underscoring its pervasiveness is the fact that more days are believed to be lost to absenteeism than to industrial action!


Yes, you can be guided by technology. Today biometrics exist and you can have a record of everyone’s comings and goings.This works in some environments such as manufacturing businesses, where it is, without doubt, an important tool.. However, how do your strike a balance between a carrot and a stick? How do you communicate verbally and non-verbally that your employees are not incarcerated, yet remind them of the employer-employee contract? How, as a Manager, do you communicate that you understand the human condition and that life has its hurdles?

Unfortunately, there is no magic pill. However, there is process, open communication, establishing clear boundaries and the use of friendly timely reminders.  There are, of course, individuals who will continue to be challenges and on whose ears your reminders will always be mute.

Absenteeism is a human problem. Humans are imperfect. The management of absenteeism is also a relationship challenge. The relationship between Managers and employees – and organisations and employees – can have a significant impact upon absenteeism, and good leadership can yield very positive results in diminishing absenteeism. For instance:

  1. Unhappy employees tend to stay away more often;
  2. Low moral contributes to unhappy employees;
  3. No communication by leadership may create unhappiness and low morale;
  4. A bad organizational culture may be a result of deficient employee communication; and
  5. Deficient employee communicationmay be a result of bad leadership.


As a Manager, absenteeism is one of the most arduous and most administratively burdensome issues to manage. We have become used to convenience and automation making our lives easier. However, in this case, Managers are hamstrung because managing absenteeism still requires manual interventions such as:

  • Observing,
  • Documenting,
  • Enquiring and
  • Systematizing.

If Managers don’t do this, or if they are reluctant to do so, then being fair and reasonable simply goes out of the window. In addition, if Managers choose not to follow these steps, it informs us that there is a lack of interest or engagement with the problem of absenteeism. This attitude also renders any system that identifies and measures the causes of the absenteeism inaccurate at best and obsolete at worst.

Systems based on technology are only as good as the Managers inputting the information – the old problem of “garbage in, garbage out” manifests itself.


Management needs to be actively interested in solving the problem. The effects of absenteeism must be quantified in their particular current work context – manufacturing is not the same as financial services. Above all, it should be emphasized that a one-size-fits-all response doesn’t necessarily address the root causes of absenteeism.

Fairness is about consistency to a set of immovable principles. Communication is a tool to achieve fairness. Documentation is a way of measuring apples with apples and creating a level playing field.

We know that there may be many other aspects to a job, but absenteeism deserves a consistent spot in your day. We advocate “15 minutes for absenteeism daily”. Get it over and done with early. That way you are always on top of your reporting.


With this in mind, our service is aimed at minimising legal risks and achieving practical outcomes which make the best financial and commercial sense for our members.

We want to help you before a problem becomes a legal problem.

Our Managing Absenteeism training workshops focus on:

  • Definition of Absenteeism
  • Forms of Absenteeism
  • Absenteeism due to ill health
  • Reasons for absenteeism
  • Reducing absenteeism
  • Absence without permission
  • Authorised Leave and Unauthorised Leave: The difference?
  • How to manage sick leave utilisation / abuse
  • Do you need to recognise traditional healers?
  • What constitutes a valid sick note and when can I insist upon one?
  • What disciplinary action can be taken to deal with unauthorised absence?
  • What constitutes authorised versus unauthorised absence?
    How does unauthorised absence affect the leave and leave enhancement pay?
    This workshop will provide you with guidelines to effectively manage these issues on a daily basis.
  • How to effectively manage sick leave, thereby minimising sick leave abuse
  • How to identify and manage fraudulent medical certificates
  • How to discipline employees who abuse sick leave
  • Understand the issues surrounding traditional healers and paid sick leave


  • Managers
  • HR Personnel
  • Supervisors