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Chapter I

Introduction

1.1 Meaning: Today the success of industrial development in a country is largely determined by the efficiency and experience of its labour force. In this regard, the problems of absenteeism and labour turnover are of great significance. It is the efficiency and experience of workers that would ultimately decide the success of an industry, while the experience and ability of workers largely depend on the elimination of the problem of absenteeism of workers in the industry.

Absenteeism is a major problem that uproots the economic prosperity of any industry or an organization. It can be reduced but not completely eradicated. It is an ever-existing problem of the industrial sector. Throughout the world absence from work has generally been considered on the increase, even though many companies have positive programmes attempting control absenteeism. In spite of the absence control programmes absentees continue to hurt corporate profits severely. In general, the absent rate indicates the relative cost to a given company, because production worker simply cannot produce as much annually when absent rates are high as they can when absent rates are low.

Chapter I

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Absenteeism is a huge, but largely neglected, problem for employees. Labour costs spring first to mind when a company wants to reduce overheads. But while initial attempts to control these almost always focus on direct costs such as wages and benefits or employee numbers, other costs remain hidden. One of those is absenteeism; companies lose hundreds of rupees each year through absenteeism.

Absenteeism is one of the most widespread obstacles to productivity, profitability and competitiveness. It causes overtime, late deliveries, dissatisfied customers and a decline in morale among workers expected to cover for absent colleagues. The indirect costs often exceed the direct while the absenteeism cause considerable losses to the company. It also affects its operations in terms of achieving its ultimate objectives.

No organization can afford to neglect such costs due to worker unnecessarily abstaining from work. The company has to tackle not only production problem but at the same time they have to keep a vigil on the causes of absenteeism and introduce a system to effectively control this problem.

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If all factors of production, human factor plays a decisive role in achieving the end results. But when this human factor in itself is not functioning properly, the adverse effects will be felt in every other aspect. Thus the problem of absenteeism assumes importance as a subject of priority for discussion. Absenteeism is also found to be sensitive to a number of economic variables including earnings and work length. Absenteeism also is found to be more pronounced in workplaces with large proportions of blue-collar workers and when there is a large amount of discontent with working conditions; Absence levels are affected by the age profile of the workforce. The highest levels are found amongst the youngest and oldest workers. The absence pattern for young employees showed a predominance of single-day absences. Older employees tended to have fewer absence spells, but spells of longer duration, suggesting serious illness as an outcome of aging; Small minorities of employees are responsible for a substantial proportion of absence in any organization (the chronic absentees); and Absenteeism is influenced by management practices. Such practices begin with monitoring the problem followed by feedback, employee counselling, maintenance of

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rigorous safety procedures, and incentive systems. More generally, absenteeism was lowest in environments where employee morale was high. 1.2 Definitions: Absenteeism has been variously defined by different authorities.

According to Websters dictionary, absenteeism is the practice or habit of being an absentee, and an absentee is one who habitually stays away. According to Sri J.D. Hackett, Absenteeism means temporary cessation of work, for not less than one whole working day, on the initiative of the worker, when his presence is expected. According Labour Bureau, Simla, absenteeism is the total man shifts lost because of absences as a percentage of the total number of man shifts scheduled to work. So, we can define absenteeism as to be the manifestation of a decision by an employee not to present himself at his place of work at a time when it

Chapter I

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is planned by the management that he should be in attendance and when he has been notified of such expectation. 1.3 Measurement of Absenteeism Absenteeism is a workers trend to stay away from work, when he is scheduled to work. As a matter of fact, it is unauthorized, unexplained, avoidable and willful absence from work. Lack of uniform method and precise definition of absenteeism have created measurement and interpretational problem. Each method of measurement and definition of absenteeism adopted by different agencies will cater to their individual purpose and requirements. 1.4 Rate of Absenteeism The absenteeism rate is defined as the total man-shifts lost because of absences as a percentage of the total number of man-shifts scheduled. For calculating rate of absenteeism we require the number of persons scheduled to work and the number actually present. Thus, we can estimate the rate of absenteeism in the following manner. Rate of Absenteeism = No. of total man-shifts lost X 100
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No. of man-shift scheduled It has also been made clear in the circular of the Labour Department, Government of India that, if a worker reports for any part of a shift, he should be considered as present. An employee is to be considered scheduled to work when the employer has work available and the employee is aware of it, and when employer has no reason to expect, well in advance, that the employer will not be available for at the specified time. The circular further clarified the application of the above principle with the help of the following example. A worker on a regularly scheduled vacation should not be considered as scheduled lay-off. On the other hand, an employee who request time-off, at other than a regular vacation period , should be considered as absent from the scheduled work until the returns, or until it is determined that the absence will be of such a duration that his name removed from the least of active employees. After this date he should be considered as neither scheduled to work nor absent. Similarly an employee who quits without notice should be considered as absent from scheduled work until his name is dropped from the active list, but preferably this period should not exceed one week in either case. If a strike is in progress workers on strike should be considered as neither scheduled to work nor absent, since data on time lost because of strikes are collected by other means.

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Thus for the purpose of calculating the rate of absenteeism, the term absence has been defined as, the failure of a worker to report for work when he was scheduled to work. A worker is considered to be scheduled to work when the employer has work available for him and the worker is aware of it. Authorized the absence is also treated as absence while presence for a part of the day or shift is treated as presence for the whole day or the shift. Absence on account of strike, lock out or lay of is excluded.1 1.5 Absenteeism Trends in Indian Industry The trends and patterns of absenteeism in Indian industries can be studied by collecting, analyzing and interpreting absenteeism statistics. Certain state government and employees association of Northern India collects these statistics from the various units on important industries on a monthly basis. The Director General of Mine Safety (DGMS) also collects these statistics statutorily from all coalmines. For calculating the rate of absenteeism we require the number of persons scheduled to work and the number of actually present and absence rate as indicating total time-loss due to all reasons whether authorized or unauthorized.
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B. P. Tyagi, Labour Economics and Social Welfare, Jai Prakash Nath & Co., Educational Publishers,

Meerut (UP), Eighth Edition 1999/2000, pp. 63-64

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The studies on absenteeism in India integrated some important trends such as; 1. The rate of absenteeism is the lowest on pay day; it increases considerably on the days following the payment of wages and bonus. 2. Absenteeism is generally high among workers below25 years of age and those above 40. 3. The rate of absenteeism varies from department to department within a unit. 4. The percentage of absenteeism is generally higher in the night shifts than in the day shifts. 5. The percentage of absenteeism is much higher in coal and mica mining industries than in organized industries. 6. Absenteeism in India is seasonal in character. It is the highest during March-April-May, when land has to be prepared for monsoon sowing, and also in the harvest season (September-October), when the rate goes as high as 40 percent. 7. Female workers tend to remain absent more than male workers.
8. As the size of the group increases, rate of absenteeism also increases.2

Dr. C. B. Memoria and S. V. Gankar, Personnel Management Text & Cases, Himalaya Publishing House, New Delhi, Reprint Edition: 2002, pp. 264-265

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1.6 Types of Absenteeism: There are mainly two types of absence. They are; 1. Innocent Absenteeism: Innocent absenteeism refers to employees who are absent for reasons beyond their control; like sickness and injury. Innocent absenteeism is not culpable which means that it is blameless. In a labour relations context this means that it cannot be remedied or treated by disciplinary measures. 2. Culpable Absenteeism: Culpable absenteeism refers to employees who are absent without authorization for reasons, which are within their control. For instance, an employee who is on sick leave even though he/she is not sick, and it can be proven that the employee was not sick, is guilty of culpable absenteeism. To be culpable is to be blameworthy. In a labour relations context this means that progressive discipline can be applied.

Dr. K. N. Vaid classifies chronic absentees into five categories: Entrepreneurs; Status-seekers; Epicureans; Family-oriented; and The sick and the old.
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The entrepreneurs are those absentees who consider their jobs to be very small for their total interests. They are simultaneously engaged in several economic and social activities. The motive force behind all such activities is the desire for more money, status, power, and the satisfaction arising out of achievement and social recognition.

The status-seeking absentees are those who enjoy or perceive a higher ascribed social status and are keen on maintaining it. The shop floor status achieved by them is much lower than the one they enjoy outside. The discrepancy between the ascribed and the achieved status is the primary cause of deviant work behavior.

The epicureans are disinclined to undertake activities which call for initiative, responsibility, discipline, and physical discomfort. They desire money, status, and power, but are unwilling to work for their achievement.

The family-oriented become chronic absentees because of their overidentification with family affairs. The lack of balance between family involvement and job responsibility is the principal cause of their deviant

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work behavior. Chronic illness of one or other family member, litigation, delinquency, working wife, etc, impels them to be absent from work.

The sick and old type remains absent from work by reason of ill health, weak constitution, chronic disease or old age.

1.7 Causes of Absenteeism

There are several factors responsible for workers to remain absent from work. It varies from department to department within an organization, industry to industry within the economy. Place to place and also time to time.

i.

Maladjustment with Factory Conditions: As a worker continues to live in the city, urban life becomes distasteful to him because of the insanitary conditions prevailing there. He finds himself caught within great factory walls; he is bewildered by heavy traffic, by jostling, by strangers speaking different languages; he is confused by different religions and tastes; and he is

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weary of the misery of slums and of toiling for long hours. He is subject to strict discipline and is ordered by complete strangers to do the things which he cannot understand.
ii.

Social and Religious Ceremonies: Social and religious functions divert workers from work to social activities. In a large number of cases, the proportion of absenteeism due to sickness, accident or maternity is not as high as it is due to other causes, including social and religious causes.

iii.

Unsatisfactory Housing Conditions: The workers who come to towns usually find that they are not wanted and they swell the number of unemployed and casual workers. They also experience housing difficulties.

iv.

Industrial Fatigue: Low wages compel a worker to seek some part-time job to earn some side income. But this often results in constant fatigue, which compels him to remain absent for the next day; and if fatigue affects him seriously, his absence may continue for quite some time.

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Chapter I v.

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Unhealthy Working Conditions: Irritating and intolerable working conditions exist in factories. Heat and moisture (which rapidly exhaust the worker), noise and vibrations in the factory (which affect his hearing), bad lighting conditions (which cause eye-strain), dust, fumes and over-crowding all of these affect the workers health, causing him to remain absent for a long time.

vi.

Absence of Adequate Welfare Facilities: Absenteeism is also due to the inadequate welfare facilities available to workers, for a vast majority if industrialists in India still look upon welfare work as a barren liability rather than a wise investment.

vii.

Alcoholism: The habit of alcoholism among workers is a significant cause of absenteeism, which is high in the first week of each month, when workers receive their wages. They rush to liquor shops and drink to forget their immediate worries. Once indulged in drink, the habit continues. Hangover the next day leads to absenteeism.

viii.

Indebtedness: Most of the workers suffer from high degree of indebtedness.

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Chapter I ix.

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Improper and Unrealistic Personnel Policies: In most cases, unskilled, untrained, illiterate and inexperienced workers are recruited who fail to cope with, and adapt themselves to their jobs and to their industrial environment.

x.

Inadequate Leave Facilities: Negligence on the part of the employer to provide adequate leave facilities compels the workers to fall back on E.S.I. leave.

The forgoing analysis influencing absenteeism concludes that almost all the causes of absenteeism behavior are directly from socioeconomic, demographic, cultural and behavioral profile of employees and the prevailing organizational climate in each individual establishment.

1.8 Effects of Absenteeism

The effects of absenteeism are too many to be listed. We can describe them under four broad categories.

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A.

Losses in productivity & production: It causes production losses in terms of

quantity and quality. Earnings of the organization are reduced. Work schedule is disturbed, dislocation of

work is caused due to machine idleness, and production capacity is lost or under utilized due to under-staffing. Absenteeism could at critical points put the

whole machinery out of gear, due to inter-dependence systems in modern industry. It creates bottlenecks in production. B. resource lost. Labour lost is increased by employing Increased loss to the Industry: It results in loss of manpower, a day lost is

additional labour and providing of leave reserve etc. Overtime payment may become necessary

for the worker, who is doing the job for the missing worker.

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As machines remain idle in highly capital

intensive industries, it results in low degree of capital utilization. Absenteeism results in increase in direct

over-heads such as training of employees in other trades clerical efforts in recording, absentee increased cost of administration in finding substitutes etc. are present. The loss in terms of difference between It causes an additional strain on those who

potential and actual profile may be considerable.

C. Losses to workers: It also results in losses to workers i.e., financial loss in terms of reduced wages, bonus, lesser incentives payment and consequent hardships to the families of the employees. Loss in skill and efficiency of the absentee worker. To habitual absentees it causes general morale

degeneration.

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affected.

Stability of work performance at high place is

The effects of habitual absentees on the average

attendance and general discipline are very bad.

D.

General: Any absence weakens the companys goals and productivity.

The loss due to absenteeism is two fold. To start with, there is a distinct loss to workers because the irregularity in absence reduces their income when no work, no pay is the general rule. On the other hand the loss to the employers is still greater as on both discipline and efficiency suffers and production goes down. Moreover, either additional complement has to be maintained throughout the year to meet the emergency or the industries have to depend solely on workers who present themselves at the gates and who are generally not up to the mark. The maintenance of an extra complement of workers leads to serious complications and evils. Hence absenteeism is an evil both for the employers and the employees as well.

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1.9 Measures for Control of Absenteeism

Absenteeism is a serious problem for a management because it involves heavy additional expenses. The management is generally uncertain about the probable duration of an employees absence and cannot take appropriate measures to fill the gap.

1. Adoption of well defined recruitment procedure: The selection of employees on the basis of communal, linguistic and family considerations should be discouraged. The management should look for aptitude and ability in the prospective employees and should not easily to yield to pressure or personal likes or dislikes. The personnel officer should play a more effective role as a co-ordinator of Information, provided the he has acquired job

knowledge in the function of selection. Selection should be for employees development, their reliance, therefore, on intermediaries for the recruitment of employees should be entirely done away with they should as far as possible, rely on employment exchanges.

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2. Provision of Healthful and Hygienic Working Conditions: In India, where the climate is warm and most of the work involves manual labour, it is essential that workers should be provided with proper and healthy working conditions. The facilities of drinking water, canteens lavatories, rest rooms, lighting and ventilation, need to be improved. Where any one of these facilities is not available, it should be provided.

3. Provision of Reasonable Wages and Allowances and job Security for Workers: Some of the wages of an employee determine his as well as his familys standard of living, this single factory is important for him than any other. The management should, therefore, pay reasonable wages and allowances, taking into account the capacity of the industry to pay, the level of wages prevailing in different units of the same industry in the same area in neighbouring areas, the productivity of labour and the general effect of rising wages in neighbouring industries.

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4. Welfare and Social Measures: The management should recognize the needs of workers and offer them adequate and cheap housing facilities, free or subsidized food, free medical aid and transportation facilities to and from their residence, free educational facilities for their children, and other monetary and non-monetary benefits.

5. Improved Communication and Prompt Redressal of Grievances: Since a majority of the workers are illiterate, bulletins and written notices, journals and booklets are not understood by them. Therefore, timely illustrations and instructions, meetings and counseling, are called for. As for grievance settlement, the management should recognize that a delayed grievance might become a complicated case. A procedure for fair and prompt redressal of grievances is, therefore, essential.

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6. Liberal Grant or Leave: The managements strict attitude in granting leave and holidays, even when the need for them is genuine, tempts workers to go on E.S.I. leave,

7. Safety and Accident Prevention: Safety at work can be maintained and accidents can be prevented if the management tries to eliminate such personal factors as negligence, over-confidence, carelessness, vanity, etc., and such material factors as unguarded machinery and explosives, defective equipment and hand tools.

8. Cordial Relations Between Supervisors and Workers: The supervisor should recognize that industrial work is a group task and cannot be properly done unless discipline is enforced and maintained. The problem of industrial discipline become serious when the end is not accepted as necessary or desirable, when there is no common aim between the discipliners and the disciplined; and discipline then becomes a mere frustration of the human purpose,

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stunts the development of the human personality and embitters human relations, for it is then a denial of freedom to the individual.

9. Development of Workers Education: The system of workers education should be so designed as to take into account their educational needs as individuals for their personal evaluation; as operatives for their efficiency and

advancement; as citizens for a happy integrated life in the community.

10. Other Measures: a. There should be clear and definite rules and regulations on authorized and unauthorized leave. b. The rules and regulations relating to attendance must be explained to workers. c. A proper record of each workers attendance should be maintained n a special daily attendance card. d. A supervisor should not be regarded as another worker and should be given definite authority to take action in all cases of absenteeism.

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The employer, the employee and the State have a definite role to play. If each performs it properly and harmoniously, the problems of inefficiency, undesired conflict, low productivity, dissatisfaction on the part of workers and their low morale resulting in frequent absenteeism can be largely eliminated.

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