Canada: The 5 Key Elements Of An Attendance Management Program (AMP)

Last Updated: November 18 2016
Article by Ryan Baxter

The employment contract is an exchange of labour for wages and other benefits, so employers are entitled to expect regular ongoing attendance from their employees. But poor attendance (and its evil twin, high absenteeism) is one of the most challenging problems employers face, and absenteeism is one of the biggest drains on workplace productivity and morale. Employers that successfully recognize and actively manage this issue stand to reap huge benefits.

One of the most effective tools to actively manage attendance and reduce absenteeism is a workplace Attendance Management Program (AMP). Here's a look at AMPs and the five key elements that most AMPs share.

THE ABSENTEEISM PROBLEM

Punctuality and regular attendance are essential attributes of every employment relationship: having contracted for labour, an employer is entitled to rely on its employees to attend work and to perform the tasks for which they were hired. The employer organizes its workplace and provides goods and services to its customers in reliance on this contract. An employee who fails to provide labour on a sustained basis is in breach of her obligations under the employment contract (or collective agreement).

Despite this, poor attendance is one of the most challenging problems employers face – and one with significant impact. According to the Conference Board of Canada's September 23, 2013 report, private sector employees called in sick 8.2 days/year and workplace absences cost an estimated $16.6B in 2012 – yet only 46% of employers tracked the number of days employees were absent and why. The problem is only getting worse: according to Statistics Canada's Labour Force Survey, between 1997 and 2012 the average number of days lost per worker per year has significantly increased: in the private sector, from 6.7 days to 8.3; in non-unionized workplaces, from 5.6 to 7.5; and in unionized workplaces from 10.7 to 12.8.

AN ATTENDANCE MANAGEMENT SOLUTION

Given the significant impact of absenteeism on employers' operations, employers have a legitimate interest in reducing the impact of excessive absenteeism and the right to take active steps to manage it.  Employers that do so can reap huge benefits, including a reduced incidence, duration and related costs of absence, as well as reduced management time and increased productivity.

Managing attendance and absenteeism raises a number of challenges for employers, and employers can take a multi-pronged approach to addressing the problem. One of the most effective tools is implementing a formalized Attendance Management Program (AMP) to systematically address workplace absenteeism issues.

An AMP is generally acceptable in the workplace if it sets out: the employer's expectations for consistent and regular attendance; promotion of wellness; procedures for notifying the employer of absences; and monitoring attendance records. Employers in a unionized workplace have the right to institute a program designed to improve attendance without the union's endorsement as long as it satisfies the "KVP" criteria (named for the arbitration case in which it was first enunciated): the AMP is not inconsistent with the collective agreement; it is not unreasonable; it is both clear and unequivocal; the employer brings the AMP to the attention of the affected employee(s) before acting on it; and the employer consistently enforces the AMP.

5 KEY ELEMENTS OF ATTENDANCE MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS

Most employer Attendance Management Programs share these five key elements.

  1. A definition of an "absence" for the purposes of the AMP.  The term "absenteeism" refers to many types of absences, and can include those caused by inclement weather, statutory holidays, vacation, illness, family related demands and stresses in the workplace. The AMP should focus on absences that disrupt the workplace and clearly articulate which ones will be "absences" for the purpose of AMP. Scheduled absences like vacation and statutory holiday are generally considered beneficial and are usually easily absorbed by the employer. But unscheduled, habitual absences, late arrivals and early departures can be disruptive to the workplace, an irritant to other employees and carry significant costs and effects on overall productivity.
     
  2. A distinction between "culpable" and "innocent" absence. One of the most important distinctions an employer must make when dealing with attendance issues generally, and in an AMP specifically, is between "culpable" and "innocent" absenteeism. The AMP should clearly reference this distinction and classification; it's also helpful if it sets out what's considered a "non-culpable" absence and the employer's expectations around it. The distinction is important to how the employer handles the issue: while in either case excessive absenteeism may warrant termination, the employer must take a different approach to each. It's therefore important to classify the absence up front and clearly articulate how the employer will deal with each.
     
    Culpable.
    "Culpable" absenteeism is absenteeism within the employee's power to address and correct – and is thus "blameworthy" absenteeism for which the employer can hold the employee responsible and typically leads to a progressive disciplinary response.
     
    Innocent.
    "Innocent" (or "non-culpable") absenteeism is not fault-based (for example, the employer doesn't suggest an employee abused sick leave entitlements or otherwise) or blameworthy and typically mandates a non-disciplinary progressive coaching process – precisely what an AMP is intended to handle. But this doesn't mean an employer is precluded from setting reasonable expectations and taking corrective (though non-disciplinary) action, or can never terminate an employee's employment. It does mean the steps leading up to and including any termination must not be "disciplinary". For the employer to terminate an employee on the basis of innocent absenteeism, it must establish: the employee's absenteeism is extreme when measured against a reasonable standard; and there's little likelihood of a change in the degree of absence in the future.
     
    Verification of the absence is key to the employer's ability to accurately classify the absence. And since employees are obligated to provide regular ongoing attendance, the employer has the right to be fully informed of the basis for an employee's absence and any work limitations or modifications she requires to perform her job duties. It's imperative that the employer consistently enforce its right to proper information and notification from employees: if an employer allows absenteeism to go unchecked, it is very difficult for it to later assert its rights. It's helpful to set out in the AMP the employee's obligation to provide medical information, what information is required, and from whom.
     
    Illness or a medical condition is probably the most frequent reason for absenteeism, and verification might require the disclosure of employee medical information. Employers do have a limited right to access an employee's medical information, and a corresponding obligation to protect the confidentiality of that information. Where the absence isn't for a medical / illness reason, the employer is entitled to know the specific cause for the absence, subject to any limitations imposed by privacy or human rights laws, and to verification of that cause.
     
  3. A mechanism for absence reporting. The AMP should address, in some detail, both employees' obligations to report absences and how they should do so, and provide for the employer's regular review of employees' attendance records. It's essential to the evaluation and monitoring of any AMP that the employer implement a system to report and track individual employee absences. Most AMPs provide for employer tracking of paid sick leave, unpaid sick leave, illness during shift, illness in family, and medical appointments where absence from work exceeds one hour.
     
  4. Thresholds for entry into and progression through the AMP. The AMP should clearly set out a threshold for entry into and progression through a coaching process and detail what each will cover. It's legally acceptable and practically essential that the employer set an absenteeism "threshold" for entry into the AMP and for moving through each stage of the coaching process up to and including non-disciplinary termination. These thresholds are typically based on a specified number of hours of non-culpable absences with a defined period of time (for example, entry at 67.5 hours of non-culpable absences within any 12 months period).Once the employee enters the AMP by meeting the initial threshold, the employer should initiate a series of coaching sessions, each triggered by the relevant threshold, in which the employer should cover:
    • The impact of absenteeism on the business and potentially on the employee's job opportunities.
    • The employee's attendance record, the need for improvement and the fact that regular attendance is a performance expectation.
    • An offer to work with the employee to identify the causes, solutions and resources available to the employee.
    • Agreement on an attendance improvement plan, targets and expectations.
    • The next step in the attendance management process and possible outcomes of continued absences.
    • At the appropriate stage, advice that the employee's absenteeism has placed his job in jeopardy and failure to improve may result in dismissal.
       
      Employers must document each meeting, consider the employee's individual circumstances and provide the employee (and the union, if applicable) with a written summary of the outcome.
       
  5. Preservation of employer discretion. It's critical that the employer bear in mind its legal obligation not to discriminate and its duty to accommodate under human rights legislation (and any applicable collective agreement) when creating, implementing and enforcing any AMP. If not, it runs the risk that a court, tribunal or arbitrator will find it discriminatory and strike it down. The AMP should preserve the employer's ability to exercise discretion and deviate from the AMP so it can adjust based on the specific circumstances in each case – and in particular, to ensure it can always meet its duty to accommodate as and when it might arise. A common AMP deviation is not to count absent hours towards the AMP thresholds during a period of disability.
     
    Employers must be alive to "flags" raising the possibility of an accommodation need when dealing with absenteeism so they can meet their legal obligations. Innocent absenteeism could be related to an employee's membership in a group protected by human rights legislation. The employer's duty to accommodate begins when it has been made aware of the need for an accommodation, or the circumstances are such that it ought reasonably to have known of the need for an accommodation. Frequently, it's during the coaching sessions in the context of an AMP where the employee will disclose a need for accommodation, or there will be "flags" that raise that possibility, and trigger the employer's duty to accommodate

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.