What is absent or absenteeism in the Workplace?
What does it mean and can I overlook it or should I deal with it? What will happen if I don’t deal with it? What harm can it do if an employee is a few minutes late?
Questions, questions and more questions – but the most dominant consideration is usually that:
“We better leave it – just give him a verbal warning – we don’t want to end up at the CCMA.” Or sometimes – “have a chat to him about it.”
And so the problem is ignored, pushed aside, and eventually it is too late to do anything.
Absent does not only mean not being at work. Absent also means:
• Arriving late (or poor timekeeping, if you like. It is still absent as long as the employee is not at work.)
• Leaving early (again, if you like, poor timekeeping. It is still absent if he is not at work)
• Extended tea or lunch breaks – the employee is not at the workstation, and therefore absent.
• Attending to private business during working hours – the employee is at work, but is not attending to his/her duties in terms of the employment contract – and is therefore absent.
• Extended toilet breaks – same as extended lunch or tea breaks.
• Feigned illness – thus giving rise to unnecessary visits to the on-site clinic, or take time off to “visit the doctor” – which they never do, because they don’t need a medical certificate for less than 2 days off.
• Undue length of time in fetching or carrying (tools from the tool room, for example, or drawings from the drawing office, etc)
• Other unexplained absences from the workstation or from the premises.
The duty of the employee is to be at work.
The very basis of the employment contract (whether written or not) is that the employee has to:
[a] come to work, and
[b] be on time
In order to perform the duties which he/she has been hired to do, and he/she must remain at the workstation for the contracted number of hours per day in order to perform the requisite duties.
If the employee does not do that, he/she cannot fulfill his/her contractual obligation, and is therefore in breach of contract.
This obligation – to come to work and stay on the job whilst at work – does not only come out of the Employment Contract.
It arises also from three other sources – Common Law, Statutes, and Company Rules and Regulations.