Absenteeism - A Disease Or A Habit? Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
January 15, 2004

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GUYANA has a relatively small workforce with a relatively big problem - absenteeism.

Contrary to their commitment, workers are increasingly using sick leave entitlements, especially liberal in the public sector, to absent themselves for any number of reasons.

Absenteeism is definitely one of the factors that will impact on the reform process underway in Guyana's public service.

Some Guyanese returning home after years overseas lament the number of days that workers stay away from their jobs here. Especially for those investing in the business sector, absenteeism in the public service is too costly an entitlement when the service is supposed to be facilitating the viability of their operations.

Unfortunately, some trade unions take their representation mandates to such heights that they unwittingly object to disciplinary action even against a worker who habitually fails to report for work.

They typically argue that the company or organization involved is going that route to victimize or discriminate against that worker.

The Government in particular comes in for harsh rebuke by unions that are fundamentally opposed to it.

But lest the wrong impression takes root, we hasten to share a sister newspaper's concern that absenteeism is a scourge that needs to be seriously and urgently addressed.

Here, then, are excerpts from yesterday's Barbados Nation editorial:

"The cost of absenteeism has been and remains a bugbear to corporate managers. As can be expected, the problem can be categorized as voluntary and involuntary. The former causing severe headaches for human resource (HR) personnel.

"Voluntary absenteeism may be attributed to poor quality of work life. It is important that employers strive to fashion interesting jobs and establish clear career paths, which are known to employees. It is vital to businesses that co-operation and trust between unions, management and employees exist.

"Much too often businesses, particularly those unable, due to size, to establish HR departments fail to properly investigate the causes of poor employee attendance which lead to further deterioration with attendant consequences, direct and indirect, for the business.

"Childcare or other family responsibilities are often the initial causes of an unsatisfactory attendance or punctuality record. Such circumstances place a greater responsibility on the shoulders of union leaders to appreciate the need for childcare facilities as part of the plant of manufacturing and larger corporations.

"As we stand on the brink of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, the Free Trade Area of the Americas and other global alliances, it is important that we accept it is our collective duty to minimize absenteeism in the workplace before it becomes endemic."