With the direct costs of absenteeism to the full-time workforce alone amounting to approximately $22 billion across the economy, it is surprising that only 45% of organisations responding to Ai Group's 2014 Absenteeism and Presenteeism Survey had an attendance management policy in place.

According to the survey, which canvassed organisations employing in excess of 80,000 workers across a broad range of industries, absenteeism costs approximately $536 per employee per absent day – a figure that blows out considerably if indirect costs, such as lost productivity, are taken into account.

While only 16.4% of our 2014 respondents actively measure the costs of absenteeism to their organisation, 57.9% considered it to be a significant cost to business. Obviously, therefore, organisations that analyse their attendance management strategies and improve attendance levels can potentially make significant financial gains.

But what can organisations actually do to maximise employee attendance?

It is difficult for organisations to be fully aware of the enormity of absenteeism as an issue if they are not fully across the costs. So simply beginning to measure employee absence accurately and attaching a value to this can really help bring attention to the issue.

From there, effective attendance management involves finding the right balance between supporting employees with their health/work problems and taking consistent firm action against employees who demonstrate high patterns of questionable absence.

Respondents to our 2014 survey considered as much as 21.3% of absences to be questionable, with ‘personal problems’, an ‘entitlement mentality’ and ‘family issues’ high on their list of reasons. And interestingly, 16.1% of organisations believed that stress in the workplace had increased over the preceding 12 months.

Ultimately, however, the survey found that organisations with a thorough attendance management strategy reported lower absenteeism rates. Practices such as return to work interviews, training managers in attendance issues, having an attendance/ absence management policy, promoting heath initiatives and having attendance as an internal KPI can all help improve attendance – and the company’s bottom line.

A good place to start for your organisation could be to take part in Ai Group’s 2015 Absenteeism and Presenteeism Survey, which is now open for participation. It’s a great opportunity to find out how your organisation’s attendance management practices compare to your peers and gain insights into successful processes and practices – and you’ll receive a complimentary copy of the survey report (valued at up to $259).

The survey is open until Friday 2 October.

Originally posted on the Ai Group blog.

Clinton Fraser

Clinton is the Publications Manager at Ai Group. He is responsible for a number of key services including Annotated Modern Awards, Workplace Relations Handbooks and the management of Ai Group’s HR and Health & Safety Resource Centres. Clinton has a Masters in Employment Relations and previously held advisory roles with the Workplace Authority and Fair Work Ombudsman.