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Sick tax a band-aid solution?

Will the 60dhs doctor's note curb absenteeism, or is it a money-maker for the DHA?

May 1, 2013 3:11 by

The new ruling by the Dubai Health Authority regarding a mandatory 60dhs fee for sick leave has sparked an interesting conversation here at Kipp’s headquarters. While some may argue the ‘tax on the sick’ may be an unnecessary pricey income generator for the DHA, others make the counterargument that, at the very least, such a policy could see in a drop in absenteeism in many organisations.

After all, excessive absenteeism is a costly problem: not only can it cost a company in terms of profitability and productivity, it also can negatively affect other employees’ morale who may have to work overtime to deal with the increased workload of an absent employee. It bodes well for management to find ways to contain the excessive absenteeism, but is making disciplinary measures pricier really the way to do it?

I don’t think so. If a company is having a genuinely difficult time with excessive absenteeism – it is far more important to investigate the cause of this phenomenon, than to just punish an employee for displaying symptoms of a deeper problem. Why is this employee consistently choosing not to come into work? Perhaps this employee has an unfair abusive boss who pushes him to meet unrealistic targets? Or perhaps the working environment is unsatisfactory – from difficult colleagues, to poorly maintained wash rooms. Or does the employee have a personal problem for which they need to take time off to run errands which can only be done during working hours?

The list of possibilities could go on, but the first step to uncovering the issue at stake is communication. A private meeting set up in confidence can allow an employee the space to be open about the cause of their absenteeism. Next, a supervisor should mitigate, if not resolve, the cause. From redistributing the work load, investing in good infrastructure, or granting an employee some personal time off – an understanding could be reached to meet the employee half way.

It may also be a good idea for management to have a conversation with the employee’s direct supervisor. Is the supervisor well equipped and trained to understand what is at the root of her employee’s discontent? Is the supervisor doing anything to contain absenteeism? Which strategies does the supervisor currently employ to get her staff to follow company policy? An organisation which understands the limitations of its line managers may be able to address a larger issue at hand and prevent this from snowballing into a bigger issue in the future.

The simple fact is, if employees are consistently trying to find excuses not to come to work, there is something which is causing them to do so. Slapping on disciplinary measures or sick taxes is nothing but a cosmetic band-aid solution, which will not be beneficial in the long run. Management need to treat their employees as human beings, not one-dimensional robots. If an employee showed significant promise to warrant being hired, extending the courtesy of attempting to understand their psychological motivations can result in higher productivity levels.

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