Employee Absences: Why Nothing Seems to Get Done in December

If it seems like nothing is getting done around your office this month, it’s because you’re fighting an uphill battle against holiday madness, germs, and bad behavior.

Here are some suggestions to help you get through December without having work grind to a complete halt.

Sick days – or are they really?

The convergence of holiday and flu season typically means even higher employee absence rates for December.

A variety of past surveys show that about a third of all workers admit to using sick days to take care of holiday shopping, run errands or visit with family. And then of course, some actually get sick too.

There’s not a lot you can do to police this, but you could think about things like flex time policies that can allow your people to take care of personal business without losing a whole day of work.

Time off for religious observance

Also, be aware that when an employee requests religious leave, the employer must make a reasonable effort to accommodate their “sincere” belief and give them time off for religious observances.

If you require them to work on a religious holiday, it could spark a religious discrimination complaint.

Make sure they get the memo about online shopping

A lot of employees will spend several hours a week shopping online while they’re supposed to be working. If you don’t already have a written company policy on this, now is a good time to put one in place.

Some companies monitor usage (and let employees know they’re doing it), while others block certain sites altogether. Make sure they know what your policy is regarding use of company technology for personal business, with regular reminders about shopping and social media usage.

Manage the company party for minimum risk

Unfortunately, the clichés about the obnoxious drunk or the grabby co-worker are all too true at most holiday parties that take place after hours where liquor is served. Also, many employees tend to call in sick the day after the office party.

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To avoid this, you may have to make the party a little less of a let-loose affair.

Consider an alcohol-free party, or only serving wine and beer. Daytime parties also tend to discourage excessive drinking. Also consider inviting families to the event, as that encourages better behavior.

If you make it clear that attendance is optional and purely social, there won’t be workers’ comp liability if someone gets injured during the event.

A little risk management can help you get more productivity out of even distracted employees, if you plan it right.

This originally appeared on the GeniusHR blog.

Steve Cape got interested in the practical impacts of employment laws on small business when he saw too many of his firm’s clients dealing with compliance rather than growing the business. He feels their pain, having operated several of them himself before coming to GeniusHR as Chief Compliance Officer. Steve is the real “wizard’ behind the legal wizards in the GeniusHR platform, helping GeniusHR clients avoid stupid mistakes, bogus claims and unwitting legal violations.


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