HR Base Camp Roundup – June 8th, 2022

What do you do when your employees aren’t following the policies in your employee handbook? This week’s HR Base Camp Roundup focuses on how to address a few specific and common problems with employees and protect your practice along the way. Here the top Q&As from our HR Base Camp Facebook Group and HR Solution Center for the week:

  1. How do you address an employee scheduling time off without getting approval first?
  2. What should you do when an employee no-call / no-shows?
  3. How should you document employee issues when you’re being flexible about minor infractions?

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How do you address an employee scheduling time off without getting approval first?

An office manager had an employee who was scheduling small amounts of time off without going through the proper approval process. When the manager confronted this employee to ask that they give advance notice for time-off requests, the employee became upset and defensive. The manager wanted to know what they should do to resolve this issue and prevent similar problems moving forward.

Asking for advance notice for time off is the standard at any business. Even if your employees know that you will almost certainly approve time-off requests for certain reasons (such as to attend important events, going to medical appointments, etc.), as a manager or business owner, you still need to know ahead of time where there might be gaps in your schedule so you can find someone to fill in or schedule around those absences as needed.

So, requiring your employees to give advance notice for any time off they might need isn’t just a good idea – it’s necessary to make sure you’re able to run your business and attend to your scheduled patients or customers.

That said, one important component that may be missing from this equation is making sure that your employees are aware of this requirement. This means having a clear request-off policy in your employee handbook detailing the proper procedure and amount of notice required to submit a time-off request, and ensuring that all of your employees have read and signed your handbook to signify that they understand what is expected of them.

It’s not enough to just verbally communicate these policies to employees as this makes it a lot easier for employees to claim they weren’t told about the process and to argue against any corrective action taken when they don’t follow it. Or, like in this situation, it provides them with an avenue to justify becoming upset when you ask them to give advance notice after the issue has already occurred. 

Having an established policy makes things clear for your staff, gives them an easy way to refresh their memory on your policies when they might be unclear on a proper procedure or expectation, and it also protects YOU and your business.

Assuming that you already have such a policy in place (if you don’t, you should work with CEDR to update your employee handbook to make sure your policies outline your expectations for employees clearly), we recommend sitting down with this employee and reiterating that you are happy to accommodate for time off for important events. All you ask is that the request is put in writing ahead of time, per your office policy. You can use this free Absence Request Form to get time-off requests from your employees in writing.

Another great way to handle this is by using a timekeeping system that makes it easy for employees to submit time-off requests. CEDR members can designate our timekeeping technology as the way to request and be approved for time off. Using this system can also make it impossible for employees to update the schedule as they see fit on their own.

Regardless of how you require your employees to submit time-off requests, this process still needs to be supported by a policy that sets the standards and methods for requesting paid or unpaid time off. 

If you’re interested in learning more about our handbook or timekeeping services, you can find more information on our product and service offerings here.

Click here to download a free absence request form you can use for your business.

What should you do when an employee no-call / no-shows?

An employer had an employee not show up to work. That employee was also not responding to phone calls. 

When an employee fails to show up to work it can throw a wrench into your entire day, and that chaos can easily spill over into the next day, and the next. When someone misses a shift entirely, your schedule is derailed before the work day ever begins and your whole team is left scrambling to cover for the absent person. 

For most employers, the immediate reaction to someone not showing up to work is to terminate this person. But there are some key things you want to do first which will benefit you in the long run. And by “long run,” we’re really talking about a matter of a few days. 

Before taking action against the employee, you’ll want to ensure that your ducks are in a row with respect to confirming this was, in fact, an unexcused absence. You’ll also want to be able to say that you’ve done what you can to find out if there’s some legitimate reason why the employee didn’t show up. And, finally, when the time comes to end your working relationship with this employee, you don’t want there to be any question about their employment coming to an end as a result of their own volition. 

Start by making sure no one has any information regarding this employee needing to be out. If you’re starting your morning huddle and notice someone is missing, you can ask your team whether anyone heard from that employee about making it into work that day. 

It’s key to review your time-off request records and to check-in with the employee’s direct supervisor about it. Mistakes happen, and one mistake we have seen happen is a supervisor approving an employee’s request for time off but forgetting to adjust the staff schedule accordingly. When that happens, the problem rests with the supervisor rather than the employee who is simply taking some approved time off. 

In most cases you’re not going to find anything, but let’s check that box anyway. 

Next, you want to try to get in touch with the employee. If they aren’t answering the phone, leave a voicemail and send a text message. Then review your records to see what other contact information you have. If you have a personal email address for them, send them an email as well. If a couple hours go by and you still haven’t heard from them, send them another message telling them that if you do not hear back from them within the hour you will be contacting their emergency contact. 

You may be wondering why you should have to spend all this time during your already short-staffed day to track down an employee who couldn’t be bothered to call out for the day. There are two main reasons for doing this. 

The first reason is that your employee may need help. Something could actually be wrong with this employee. If they are having an emergency, you may be the only person trying to find them since everyone else assumes they’re at work. 

The second reason is to build the record. It’s pretty hard to justify missing work when they not only failed to reach out to you, but then proceeded to ignore your attempts to contact them through various methods. It won’t look good for them if they later try to justify their absence or even claim they had some legitimate reason for being out and were wrongfully terminated. 

If they never respond to you, and they don’t show up for their next workshift, you can pretty safely end their employment. It would take an extreme situation for someone to be completely unable to communicate with you for more than one day. On the off chance something legitimate happened, like them being in an accident requiring emergency surgery that rendered them incapacitated, then you can always adjust for that later. 

But, in most cases, by missing multiple days of work this employee has shown you that they aren’t interested in working for you anymore. Mail a letter confirming your acceptance of their voluntary resignation due to job abandonment. Include in that letter the fact that you have no record of them having time off approved, and describe all the ways you attempted to reach them, to no avail. Keep a copy of this letter for your records and send a copy to their personal email, as well. You will also want to make sure you’re providing their final paycheck in compliance with your state laws and including an Exit Interview Form with a self-addressed, stamped envelope with that letter. For more tips on employee separations, check out our Separation Guide.

If they did respond to you on the day they were out with some type of excuse, or if they do show up to work the next day, we’re not saying you’re stuck continuing to employ them. Employment is at-will in every state except Montana, which means you can terminate at any time for any legal reason. 

Being a no-call/no-show and not following your policies about taking time off are legal reasons for terminating employment. If you don’t think they have a legitimate excuse for what caused them to miss work, or if you’ve been having ongoing issues with this employee, in most cases you can go ahead and terminate them. You could even put it in writing as “job abandonment.” Just be aware that unemployment judges tend to be very lenient toward employees, so only missing one day of work isn’t always enough for them to deny unemployment benefits

Of course, the guidance provided in this post is very high level and general in nature. And, as with any HR issue, the circumstances surrounding any particular no-call/no-show situation are going to vary. With that in mind, it’s important to work with a qualified HR professional to make sure your approach to the situation is thorough, takes account of all mitigating factors, and is in compliance with all state and local laws.

CEDR Members should reach out to the Solution Center for help dealing with no-call/no-show situations as they arise.

If you’re not a CEDR Member and would like to speak to someone about how we can help you build protections for your practice, click here to get in touch.

Click to download The Secret to Better Employee Engagement and Retention for free.

How should you document employee issues when you’re being flexible about minor infractions?

In response to last week’s HR Base Camp Roundup, a CEDR member wanted to know what they should do to document times when they’ve been lenient about minor employee issues. In this case, the specific issue in question involved employees regularly showing up to work late.

One HR question begets another. This is a fact that the Advisors in CEDR’s Solution Center know well.

We appreciate hearing when employers are making an effort to be lenient with their employees with respect to minor issues. After all, things happen. Car trouble happens. Bad traffic happens. Children get sick. And, let’s face it, your employees are people and nobody’s perfect.

So, rather than nitpicking at every little mistake or oversight that may come up with your employees, there is something to be said for choosing your battles. But choosing your battles does not mean letting your employees take advantage of your understanding nature. 

Maybe you choose not to say anything to an employee if they are five minutes late one day, but it’s still a good idea to make a note in their file that it happened. You can use the ‘Confidential Note’ feature inside HR Vault to do this in a matter of a few seconds, and then you can just go on with your day.

Now, let’s say the employee is late a second time that same week or a week later. Rather than letting it slide again, this might be the time to let the employee know that you’re starting to notice an unsettling trend. 

Use the FIRR Method to report your observation to the employee. Let them know how the behavior negatively impacts your business or the rest of your team, reason with them, and request that they improve their behavior in some specific way. Then, make a note of this conversation inside HR Vault or by using an Employee Interaction Log Form like this one

It’s critical that you have this conversation with the employee, and be open to hearing what they have to say. You may be going into it thinking that this is someone who’s getting lazy and doesn’t care about being there for the morning huddle. But you may come out of it learning that this employee has been incredibly stressed about trying to make it on time while dealing with something big going on at home that is largely out of their control.

Let’s say the employee lets you know that their father-in-law recently had a stroke and is now staying with them. They are having trouble finding an agency that has a caretaker that can come help out each day. 

Now the reason for them being late looks very different. They’re trying to take care of a loved one, and in trying to find help so that they can get to work on time they’re actually facing the same staffing issue that you are! 

Ultimately it is your decision on how to address this, as it is still an attendance concern. But keep in mind that showing an employee some grace and acknowledgement that they’re going through a hard time is something that employees remember, and it can be the reason they choose to stay with you for years to come

If you want to provide flexibility here, that does not mean that you shouldn’t put some parameters around it and document what was discussed. Acknowledge that what they’re doing is important, and that being able to take care of their family is important to you, as well. Tell them you appreciate that they have been making efforts to get more help at home so that they are able to be at work on time for their full shifts. 

You are able to grant your employees some flexibility as long as they are accountable to you in turn. If they have any reason to believe they may be late, even by a few minutes, they should text you as soon as possible. They should know that you are willing to work with them for the time being while they figure this out, but it cannot be a long-term thing. Ask them how long they anticipate their arrival time potentially being late. Tell them that you are going to check in with them around that time to see how things are going. 

Most importantly, their takeaway needs to be that, while you are allowing some flexibility around arrival time right now, that is subject to change. If you find that their periodic tardiness is causing an issue, you will need to pull back on allowing them more flexibility than normal.

We recommend putting a summary of this discussion, and your expectations, in writing so that the employee can’t come back and say you promised something you didn’t. 

CEDR members can always contact the Solution Center for help addressing any employee issues that may come up for you. Our expert Advisors are also happy to take care of and provide any paperwork or documentation you might need to properly address those issues and protect your practice in the process.

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of Solution Center membership, click here.
Click to download your free employee interaction log template for free.
At CEDR HR Solutions, we believe that “Better workplaces make better lives,” and we are committed to helping our members build stronger, better-protected businesses. 

Click here to learn more about how CEDR’s HR experts can help you build a better business for you and your team. 

Jun 7, 2022

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.
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