Absentee (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
One who has left, either temporarily or permanently, his or her domicile or usual place of residence or business. A person beyond the geographical borders of a state who has not authorized an agent to represent him or her in legal proceedings that may be commenced against him or her within the state.
An absentee landlord is an individual who leases real estate to another but who does not reside in the leased premises.
An absentee corporation is one that conducts business within a state other than the place of its incorporation but has not designated an agent for purposes of SERVICE OF PROCESS, which might ensue from disputes involving its business transactions there.
(The entire section is 114 words.)
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Absenteeism (Encyclopedia of Public Health)
Illness imposes a number of costs on the individuals who suffer the illnesses, their families and loved ones, their coworkers, and, more broadly, society as a whole. When estimating the social costs of illness, both in general and with regard to specific diseases or unhealthy behaviors, health economists and others focus on two categories of costs: medical expenditures required to treat the conditions, referred to as direct costs; and productivity losses associated with the conditions, called indirect costs. Indirect costs, often the larger of the two burdens, consist of productivity lost due to the premature deaths of disease victims and to morbidity (sickness) and disability that cause victims to miss work days.
Absenteeism is the term used to describe the fact of an individual's missing his or her regular daily activity. For children and adolescents, absenteeism typically refers to school days missed. For adults, absenteeism generally refers to individuals' absence from their jobs. In analyses of the indirect costs of all illness, all days of absence from work attributable to sickness are included in calculating the absenteeism component of indirect cost. In analyses of the indirect costs of specific illnesses or unhealthful behaviors like cigarette smoking, the productivity loss of interest is that associated with excess absenteeism due to the disease or condition at issue. The essential word here is "excess." Nearly all workers experience some days of absenteeism during the course of the normal work year. However, workers who suffer from specific acute or chronic illnesses are likely to miss more work days than usual. It is these extra days of missed work that create the lost productivity calculated as an indirect cost of specific illnesses.
The costs associated with absenteeism are estimated by multiplying the number of days of absenteeism by the best measure of workers' contribution to productivity: their daily wage rate. In the case of conditions that are distributed among the population reasonably independent of people's age and occupational status, an average wage rate for the population as a whole may be applied. In the case of many illnesses, however, the distribution of the conditions is not independent of age and occupation. In these instances, analysts attempt to associate age-and occupation-specific wage rates with the days of work missed due to morbidity or disability. For example, were one interested in assessing the costs associated with back pain, one of the most common causes of work loss in America, one would emphasize wage rates paid to industrial and other blue-collar workers whose jobs require them to lift and move heavy objects. An analysis of the social costs of breast cancer, a disease that afflicts primarily women, would utilize wages earned by women in calculating the burden of absenteeism attributable to the disease.
Not all disease-related work loss occurs among paid workers. Conditions that afflict people caring for their children or cleaning their homes also impose costs on society. A complete estimate of the burden of disease must account for absenteeism in this sector of the society as well. Formal analyses often include unpaid work loss by multiplying days lost by what economists call a "shadow price," an estimate of the value of the unpaid labor performed. For example, unpaid child care may be valued at the wages of paid day-care providers. Similarly, housework time lost may be valued by the wage rate of paid domestic house cleaners.
Although there is no argument about whether absenteeism imposes a significant cost on members of society, economists and public health analysts frequently differ on whether they consider such absenteeism a social cost. To public health analysts, illness-and injury-related absenteeism represents a burden on society as a whole, a social cost of enormous proportions. In contrast, to economists such productivity losses represent primarily private costs borne directly by the sick and disabled workers and their families, not the broader society. How one classifies such costs is not merely an academic exercise. Certain public health policies, such as the taxation of cigarettes and alcoholic beverages, are based in part on determination of the social cost of the consumption of these products. If the cost to society is deemed large, a high tax may be warranted to signal smokers and drinkers that the implications of their behaviors burden the rest of society, not merely themselves.
However this argument is resolved, no one challenges the notion that illness-and behavior related absenteeism constitutes an important element of the burden of disease.
KENNETH E. WARNER
(SEE ALSO: Alcohol Use and Abuse; Child Care, Daycare)
Cook, P. J. (1991). "The Social Costs of Drinking." In The Negative Social Consequences of Alcohol Use. Oslo, Norway: Norwegian Ministry of Health and Social Affairs.
Deyo, R. A.; Cherkin, D.; Conrad, D.; and Volinn, E. (1991). "Cost, Controversy, Crisis: Low Back Pain and the Health of the Public." Annual Review of Public Health. 12:14156.
Gold, M. R.; Siegel, J. E.; Russell, L. B.; and Weinstein, M. C. (1996). Cost-Effectiveness in Health and Medicine. New York: Oxford University Press.
Warner, K. E.; Chaloupka, F. J.; Cook, P. J.; Manning, W. G.; Newhouse, J. P.; Novotny, T. E.; Schelling, T. C.; and Townsend, J. (1995). "Criteria for Determining an Optimal Cigarette Tax: The Economist's Perspective." Tobacco Control 4:38086.
Absenteeism (Encyclopedia of Small Business)
Absenteeism is the term generally used to refer to unscheduled employee absences from the workplace. Many causes of absenteeism are legitimateersonal illness or family issues, for exampleut absenteeism also can often be traced to other factors such as a poor work environment or workers who are not committed to their jobs. If such absences become excessive, they can have a seriously adverse impact on a business's operations and, ultimately, its profitability.
COSTS OF ABSENTEEISM
"Unscheduled absences hurt," wrote M. Michael Markowich in a summary of an article he wrote for the September 1993 issue of Small Business Reports. "Most sick leave policies foster a 'use it or lose it' mind-set, and employees feel entitled to a certain number of sick days." Markowich went on to note that a survey of 5,000 companies conducted by Commerce Clearing House Inc. (CCH Inc.) found that unscheduled absences cost small businesses, at that time, $62,636 a year, on average, in lost productivity, sick time, and replacement costs.
Indeed, absenteeism can take a financial toll on a small business (or a multinational company, for that matter) in several different respects. The most obvious cost is in the area of sick leave benefitsrovided that the business offers such benefitsut there are significant hidden costs as well. The SOHO Guidebook cites the following as notable hidden cost factors associated with absenteeism:
- Lost productivity of the absent employee
- Overtime for other employees to fill in
- Decreased overall productivity of those employees
- Any temporary help costs incurred
- Possible loss of business or dissatisfied customers
- Problems with employee morale
Indeed, Attacking Absenteeism author Lynn Tylczak contended that excessive absenteeism, if left unchecked, can wear on a company in numerous ways. "[Absenteeism] forces managers to deal with problems of morale, discipline, job dissatisfaction, job stress, team spirit, productivity, turnover, production quality, additional administration, and overhead. To summarize: You don't have an absentee problem. You have a profit problem."
DEVELOPING AN ABSENCE POLICY
Many small business owners do not establish absenteeism policies for their companies. Some owners have only a few employees, and do not feel that it is worth the trouble. Others operate businesses in which "sick pay" is not provided to employees. Workers in such firms thus have a significant incentive to show up for work; if they do not, their paycheck suffers. And others simply feel that absenteeism is not a significant problem, so they see no need to institute new policies or make any changes to the few existing rules that might already be in place.
But many small business consultants counsel entrepreneurs and business owners to consider establishing formal written policies that mesh with state and federal laws. Written policies can give employers added legal protection from employees who have been fired or disciplined for excessive absenteeism, provided that those policies explicitly state the allowable number of absences, the consequences of excessive absenteeism, and other relevant aspects of the policy. Moreover, noted The SOHO Guidebook, "a formal, detailed policy that addresses absences, tardiness, failure to call in, and leaving early can serve to prevent misconceptions about acceptable behavior, inconsistent discipline, complaints of favoritism, morale problems, and charges of illegal discrimination. General statements that excessive absenteeism will be a cause for discipline may be insufficient and may lead to problems."
Other steps that have been touted as effective in reducing absenteeism concern making changes in company culture and policy. CCH Incorporated, for instance, has noted that workplace flexibility can dramatically cut incidents of unscheduled absenteeism. Many small businesses that have introduced flextime, compressed work weeks, job sharing, and telecommuting options to their workforce have seen absenteeism fall significantly, for these policies provide employees with much greater leeway to strike a balance between office and home that works for them (and the employer).
Most employees are conscientious workers with good attendance records (or even if they are forced to miss significant amounts of work, the reasons are legitimate). But as Markowich noted, "every company has a small number of abusersbout 3 percent of the workforceho exploit the system by taking more than their allotted sick time or more days than they actually need. And when they begin calling in sick on too many Monday or Friday mornings, who picks up the slack and handles the extra work? More important, who responds to customer requests?"
To address absenteeism, then, many small businesses that employ workers have established one of two absenteeism policies. The first of these is a traditional absenteeism policy that distinguishes between excused and unexcused absences. Under such policies, employees are provided with a set number of sick days (also sometimes called "personal" days in recognition that employees occasionally need to take time off to attend to personal/family matters) and a set number of vacation days. Workers who are absent from work after exhausting their sick days are required to use vacation days under this system. Absences that take place after both sick and vacation days have been exhausted are subject to disciplinary action. The second policy alternative, commonly known as a "no-fault" system, permits each employee a specified number of absences (either days or "occurrences," in which multiple days of continuous absence are counted as a single occurrence) annually and does not consider the reason for the employee's absence. As with traditional absence policies, once the employee's days have been used up, he or she is subject to disciplinary action.
"USE IT OR LOSE IT" Some companies do not allow employees to carry sick days over from year to year. The benefits and disadvantages of this policy continue to be debated in businesses across the country. Some analysts contend that most employees do not require large numbers of sick days, and that systems that allow carryovers are more likely to be abused by poor employees than appropriately utilized by good employees, who, if struck down by a long-term illness, often have disability alternatives. But Markowich warns that "today, most employees feel entitled to a specified number of sick days. And if they don't take those days, they feel that they are losing a promised benefit. Your company may be inadvertently reinforcing this 'use it or lose it' attitude by establishing policies under which employees 'lose' their sick time if it is not used by the end of the year."
ESTABLISHING A SYSTEM FOR TRACKING ABSENCES
Absenteeism policies are useless if the business does not also implement and maintain an effective system for tracking employee attendance. Some companies are able to track absenteeism through existing payroll systems, but for those who do not have this option, they need to make certain that they put together a system that can: 1) keep an accurate count of individual employee absences; 2) tabulate company wide absenteeism totals; 3) calculate the financial impact that these absences have on the business; 4) detect periods when absences are particularly high; and 5) differentiate between various types of absences.
Allerton, Haidee E. "How To." Training and Development, August 2000.
Ceniceros, Roberto. "Written Policies Reduce Risk in Firing Workers Comp Abusers." Business Insurance. April 21, 1997.
"Don't Let Unscheduled Absences Wipe You Out." Workforce, June 2000.
Hunt, David. " 'There's a Bit of Flu Doing the Rounds, Boss,"' Employee Benefits, April 2000.
Keenan, Denis. "Too Much Time Off." Accountancy. April 1993.
"Link Absenteeism and Benefitsnd Help Cut Costs," HR Focus, April 2000.
Markowich, M. Michael. "Attendance Required." Small Business Reports. September 1993.
The SOHO Guidebook. CCH Incorporated, 1997.
Tylczak, Lynn. Attacking Absenteeism: Positive Solutions to an Age-Old Problem. Crisp, 1990.
SEE ALSO: Employee Motivation; Sick Leave and Personal Days
Absenteeism (Encyclopedia of Business)
Absenteeism occurs when an employee of a company does not come to work due to scheduled time off, illness, injury, or any other reason. The cost of absenteeism to business, usually expressed in terms of lost productivity, is difficult to determine. Studies from government sources such as the U.S. Bureau of the Census and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics put the direct losses at more than $40 billion a year; the Social Security Administration determined that, in one year, workers missed more than half a billion days. Various private studies and polls studying particular elements of absenteeism sometimes put the figure much higher. One recent Gallup poll did not put a price tag on the sniffles and swollen eyes, but claimed that more than 3 million workdays per year are lost when working people stay home because their allergies are acting up. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology released a study in 1994 claiming that clinical depression alone resulted in more than 213 million lost workdays, costing $24 billion.
There is little written history of absenteeism in business literature, probably because until the 20th century businesses had a simple rule, "No work: no pay." The practice of offering paid "sick days" did not become widespread until labor unions forced companies into contracts allowing employees to take time off for illness or vacation. While practices vary among companies and union contracts, an average of four to ten sick days per year is standard.
Although companies were originally unwilling to offer paid leave to workers, they have come to realize that humane absence-management policies are cost-effective. In fact, it is estimated that companies with effective employee absence strategies reduce their overall payroll costs by 10 percent. Furthermore, a 1995 study discovered a correlation between absenteeism and employee turnover. Companies with high rates of absenteeism were found to be more likely to have their employees leave for jobs with other firms. In light of such findings, employers have recognized that a generous absence policy can be profitable and contribute to employee satisfaction and stability.
The problem of absenteeism is addressed directly by some companies, and some handle the situation better than others. One recent study involved a television manufacturer that operated with a lean staff. Every nonsalaried employee scheduled to work was required to be on the floor, or a substitute had to be found. The union negotiated with the company to reduce the number of annual excused absences allowable from 24 days to 18, but allowed some vacation days to be applied toward other forms of absence. Employees with more than 18 absences could be terminated. The company thought that this reduction in absences before termination would show how serious it was about keeping employees on the line, and reduce absenteeism.
After the new contract went into effect there was a 45 percent decline in the number of unexcused absences and a 22 percent drop in excused absences, which was in keeping with corporate intentions. The use of vacation time to compensate for absences jumped 81 percent, however, leaving a net increase of 12 percent in work hours lost to absenteeism. In-creased use of vacation time, which could be taken without advance notice, also caused greater disruption than the use of excused absences, which had to be scheduled in advance with supervisors.
In the next round of labor negotiations, the company secured the elimination of the vacation-day substitution practice. It also told employees desiring to move into different jobs that they must have had a good attendance record the previous year. As an additional incentive, the company also offered a perfect attendance bonus of $200. In the first year of the new arrangement, 127 employees qualified for the bonus; during the previous year only 27 employees had perfect attendance records. The experience of this company shows the importance of understanding absenteeism and the potential abuses of absence-management policies.
PAID TIME OFF SYSTEM
Some companies have approached similar problems by eliminating sick leave altogether. Instead of vacation time and sick leave, the companies have developed "paid-leave banks." In one study of 464 hospitals using seven different methods of controlling absenteeism, only the paid leave bank consistently showed a positive effect in controlling absenteeism. This method of absence management is known as the "paid time off system.
Often, companies have halved the amount of time previously set aside for sick leave and added those days to the "bank." At the start of the year employees understand they have a certain number of paid days off work that can be taken for any reason of their choosing. No sick days are allotted. If an employee is legitimately ill and cannot return to work after using all the days in his or her "bank," short term disability payments start. One company using such a policy found its employees' reporting of illness absences dropped by more than 30 percent in one year.
Human resources managers also grapple with problems posed by workers who are chronically absent. The legal right of employers to discipline employees who are chronically absent is firmly established; employers must first, however, make such employees aware of the problem and give them a chance to improve. Some companies have implemented a surprisingly simple solution to the problem of chronic absenteeism: they have the worst offenders counsel each other. In one research study patterned after drug and alcohol abuse programs, a company paired valued employees who had absence problems with each other. If one felt like skipping work, he or she was encouraged to call the buddy to talk it out.
During the study, the employees' absence rates dropped by nearly 50 percent. Once they stopped participating in this absence-intervention program, their absence levels increased, but they remained lower than they had been before peer counseling. Employees who participated in the study found that they could talk freely with each other about the reasons behind their absences. The buddy would help talk through the problem, and encourage the wavering employee to return to work. Absence-intervention programs have also revealed that absentee workers have little idea how much time they were really missing from work. They knew they were taking "too much" time, but until the buddy started tracking it for them, they were unaware of how their absence was affecting the company.
Similarly, companies are increasingly aware that, by understanding the causes of absenteeism, the phenomenon can be reduced to its lowest possible level. Recent research has indicated that rates of absenteeism can be predicted by analyzing an employee's job satisfaction, job involvement, and work stress. Additionally, a worker's family status is a key predictor of absenteeism. Employees with children, particularly single parents, are far more likely to be absent than those without children. As such, future absence-management policies will most likely include the concept of paid time off coupled with improved family health, child care/elder care, and other programs designed to improve the quality of employees' lives and relieve some of their family and other nonwork responsibilities.
updated by Grant Eldridge]
Allen, W. David. "Family Illness and Temporary Work Absence." Applied Economics 28, no. 9 (September 1996): 1177.
Goodman, Paul S., and others. Absenteeism. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1984.
Kweller, Deborah S. "The Emerging Model of Absence Management." HR Focus 75, no. 8 (August 1998): 9.
Lissy, William E. "Absenteeism and Tardiness." Supervision 57, no. 3 (March 1996): 17.
Markowich, M. Michael, and Steve Eckberg. "Get Control of the Absentee-Minded." Personnel Journal 75, no. 3 (March 1996): 115.
McElroy, James C., Paula C. Morrow, and James B. Fenton. "Absenteeism and Performance as Predictors of Voluntary Turnover." Journal of Management Issues 7, no. I (spring 1995): 91.
Muir, John. "Dealing with Sickness Absence." Chemist and Druggist, 24 August 1996, 258.
Rhodes, Susan. Managing Employee Absenteeism. New York: Addison-Wesley, 1990.
Steel, Robert P., and Joan R. Rentsch. "Influence of Cumulation Strategies on the Long-Range Prediction of Absenteeism." Academy of Management Journal 38, no. 6 (December 1995): 1616.