Bette Boechler has seen some positive strides using Saskatoon Health Region’s attendance strategy in her departments. As the Director for Maternal and Children’s Health, Boechler and her team are meeting their attendance targets and have seen non-culpable absence numbers decrease from last year.

“There are many cases where employees use sick time when we could be doing something else to meet their needs,” says Boechler. “This initiative allows the managers to sit down with the employees and find a solution together.”

The Region’s attendance strategy was developed in 2010, clearly outlining the differences between non-culpable and culpable absenteeism. “The Region takes absenteeism seriously because the appropriate use of resources is everyone’s responsibility,” says Mike Northcott, Director, Employee Relations.

“Non-culpable absences are absences for which an employee is not responsible, like being sick for example,” explains Evette Laville, Labour Relations Consultant. “If someone is taking more sick leave than their peers, we need to look at why that is and ensure the appropriate resources are accessible to the employee when needed.” While the non-culpable attendance meetings seek to assist employees in attending work regularly, should an employee continue to be excessively absent, it may lead to termination of employment. “Termination is not the goal but it is a possibility. Ultimately, we want people to attend work regularly,” says Laville.

For Boechler and her team, the non-culpable absenteeism process has been proactive. “The meetings are supportive and I find that you really get to know your staff and how you can support them,” she says. “Having three or four staff members on sick leave can add up, especially when sick leave may not be the most appropriate option. Staff need to know that we can work with them to find other options for them, such as flex hours or accommodating them with other positions.”
Managers have also been very responsive in requesting Labour Relations support for culpable absenteeism. Since the beginning of the 2012 fiscal year, Labour Relations has had 263 requests from managers for culpable absenteeism support.

“Culpable absences are within the control of the employee, such as chronic lateness, not showing up to work or failing to provide a medical note when requested,” explains Laville. “When a manager feels that they have a case of culpable absenteeism, Labour Relations works closely with the manager to determine the facts and how to proceed.” Follow up on these requests can result in meetings for coaching or various degrees of discipline up to and including termination of employment.