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Advice for Preventing Absenteeism Around the Holiday Season


December and January are the two months of the year with the most employee sick leave absences. For many businesses, these months are also very busy due to the holidays or due to recruitment at the start of the new year. Employee absence at these times can seriously undermine productivity and end up costing the business.

This spike in absence is often due to factors other than physical illness. In order to prevent employees taking unjustified sick leave, business owners should review their annual leave allowance, their management practices and remind employees of their expectations during especially busy times of the year.

Why might employees take sick leave if they aren’t sick?

December can be a stressful month for many. As the year comes to an end, many workers might be stressed by the pressure to wrap up projects and meet deadlines, on top of the additional stress the holiday season might bring to their job duties and personal lives.

In January, workers tend to experience post-holiday blues and burnout. In a 2019 survey by O.C. Tanner, employees stated they faked illness in order to rest, spend time with family, do errands and avoid travelling in bad weather.

What can employers do to prevent absenteeism around the holidays?

If employees are frequently calling in sick, it might be because they are burnt-out due to too much work, a stressful schedule, they aren’t enjoying their work environment or because they weren’t able to get the day off. Employers should assess how they treat their employees and make accommodations where possible to ensure their employees aren’t stressed at work and have a good work-life balance.

As a best practice, remind employees of their sick leave entitlements before the holiday season begins. If their provincial legislation allows it, employers may request doctor’s notes in reasonable circumstances for sick leave absences.

Rather than confronting employees on suspicious absences straight away, employers and managers should first document absences and identify patterns (such as frequent absences around long weekends). When there is enough evidence, employers should address the issue and warn of disciplinary measures if the unjustified absences continue.

Is absenteeism costing your business?

Speak with our HR experts for information on how you can prevent absenteeism and sick leave in your workplace. We help employers meet their obligations under Employment Standards legislation and keep their business compliant with the law. Contact us today: 1 (833) 247-3652.