Ben Bierman, Managing Director of Business Partners Limited. Photo: Supplied
Ben Bierman, Managing Director of Business Partners Limited. Photo: Supplied

Business 101: Handling absenteeism in the time of Covid-19

By Opinion Time of article published Dec 7, 2020

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By Ben Bierman

AN UNFORTUNATE commercial by-product of Covid-19 is a marked increase in absenteeism in employee’s absence from the workplace.

While completely understandable, the impact small businesses can still be detrimental, given that many employ less than ten employees.

Small businesses are key to South Africa’s economic recovery and it is vital that their owners get a grip on challenges like absenteeism before it spirals out of control. After all, each employee is likely to play a major role in a relatively small team, hence the continued absence can have a significant effect on productivity.

Here are some helpful tips to mitigate against it:


The most efficient way to handle absenteeism is by developing,implementing and enforcing strict policies and guidelines. It is the right of the employer to request a doctor’s certificate should the cases become habitual and regular absenteeism on a Friday and Monday should be addressed in a constructive way by management.


Despite the excitement and pressure to reopen offices, remote working is still a possibility for employees as the safest option. It also hels to keep absenteeism down to a minimum. However, it is important to ensure that necessary systems, processes, and technical support are in place to enable employees to work remotely and for managers and business owners to monitor productivity.


A positive workplace culture and personal engagement can limit absenteeism. The importance of each team member is evident within a smal businesses which results in staff being dependent on each other and aware of the team’s efforts. Involving staff in the performance of the company will also help them to understand the role they play in making the business successful, while ensuring they feel valued and appreciated.


Flexibility has been proven to reduce absenteeism. Businesses need to implement flexible structures such as allowing employees to select and swap shifts at short notice, which can assist with minimising habitual absenteeism. Many employees are either stressed out by the rush and pressure to wrap up the year are simply already in “holiday mode”, and both of these factors can have an impact on the number of absenteeism. Festive season absenteeism can affect smaller businesses that require all hands on deck in order to meet final targets and deadlines. It is therefore vital that businesses keep their finger firmly on the pulse of absenteeism.

Ben Bierman is a managing director at Business Partnets Limited


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