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Sharing Information About an Employee's Absence: 7 Best Practices

From placing names in subject lines to not assuming things about people, here are seven answers to the question, "What are some best practices for sharing information about an employee’s absence?"

  • Use the Employee's Name in the Email Subject Line

  • Let the Employee Share Their Info

  • Make It Impersonal

  • Use an Attendance Tracking Tool

  • Only Share On a Need-to-Know Basis

  • Keep It Confidential

  • Don't Make Assumptions About People

Use the Employee's Name in the Email Subject Line

One best practice for sharing information about an employee's absence is to always use the employee's name in the email's subject. This makes it much more likely that the intended recipient will open and read the email, which is crucial in these situations.

Consider using a subject line such as "Employee Name - Family Medical Leave" instead of "Employee FML." It's also important to be succinct in the email's body. Explain what the employee's medical situation is, when they will be returning to work, and if there are any updates on their progress. Be sure to include any instructions or guidance for managers or supervisors about how to handle any work that might pile up while the employee is out.

Let the Employee Share Their Info

One best practice for sharing information about an employee's absence is to ensure that the individual themselves is communicating their absence. This allows the employee to manage expectations while still protecting any private information they may have.

An uncommon approach in this context would be to provide open access to a scheduling platform or calendar where all employees can view each other's absences, though care should be taken to only include necessary information and respect privacy.

Make It Impersonal

When communicating that someone is absent as that person's manager or as an HR rep, there is the temptation to make it warm and personable. In my opinion, that is a mistake. When sharing this information, the only two things to include should be the time that person will be out and who will cover for them in the meantime. That's it.

The reason for this is that absences are usually for private reasons, and those reasons should not be shared or even hinted at in communications that come from anyone other than the employee.

Use an Attendance Tracking Tool

Frequent lack of attendance is called employee absenteeism. The best practice for sharing information about employees' absences is an attendance tracking tool. It is an effective, fast, and impeccable practice to share information about an employee's absence. It makes the information authenticated so that your leader can believe you.

This way, managers can easily find potential attendance issues. They can identify if an employee took a day off without informing or beyond taking scheduled time off. Many businesses use this type of tool to know the irregularity in office hours and working days of employees.

Technology can automate most tasks and help you save crucial time. A suitable employee tracking tool helps you find the working hours abused by employees. These types of tools are not only for tracking, but also provide many other benefits that you can find once you use them., Clockshark, Timecamp, and Jibble are the top employee tracking tools.

Yogesh Kumar, Digital Marketing Manager, Technource

Only Share on a Need-to-Know Basis

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, prohibits the sharing of medical-related information about an employee unless it is on a need-to-know basis. This basically means only the manager, supervisor, and at most the immediate team members can know about an absence because it directly impacts the workflow of the day. If the information travels outside of that area, there could be steep fines and other penalties.

Keep It Confidential

As a manager or business owner, you should not discuss the lateness or absenteeism of a single employee with all of your employees. That type of public shaming is not unlawful, but it certainly won't do you any favors with your team or morale.

Instead, if you have that issue with one or more employees, during a regular team meeting, review the business' key policies (including the attendance policy) with all employees. Of course, meet with each employee who violated the policy separately and confidentially. Discuss the situation with the employee and impose any discipline required in conformity with your company's written discipline policies. If you don't have a written discipline policy, work with a competent HR professional or attorney to create one.

Robert Reder, Attorney, Blythe Grace PLLC

Don't Make Assumptions About People

Do your best to not make assumptions and make the conversation as personable as possible. It's important to remember that employees are people with complex lives outside of work, so try your best to keep an open mind.

Start off by getting as much detail as you can from the employee about why they need to be absent and how long they expect to be gone. Ask targeted questions to get a better understanding of what is going on without delving too much into their personal lives. Check-in regularly with the employee while they are away and always thank them for keeping you informed on their status.

Establishing a good rapport can help make communicating absences easier down the line. With each conversation, make sure to document what was discussed so that everyone is on the same page.

Yusuf Shurbaji, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Prismfly