Excused Absence From Work

Best Practice Is to Talk to Your Manager When You Can't Make It to Work

Businesswoman blowing nose in office
Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Is it okay to not show up for work on occasion? Most responsible employees know that you don't get paid if you don't work. However, many situations come to mind in which employers will excuse employee absences, particularly if they are scheduled in advance.

Good communication and clear attendance policies are key to a good work environment and help avoid confusion about absences. Many employers offer paid time off for vacations or allow workers to take a few sick days each year.

Employees will also find many companies that are sympathetic to family emergencies and funerals and are willing to work with the employee when they are notified in a timely manner. Other companies have more stringent policies and may require proof of deaths in the family, major illness, and doctor's notes for the routine use of sick days or to care for a sick family member.

The key for employees is that you become familiar with the policies and the expectations of your current employer. Most have attendance policies that are carefully spelled out in their employee handbooks. Handbooks are signed off on by employees to indicate that you understand and agree to abide by their contents.

So, if you violate your employer's policies on what absences are excused and which are not, especially if you are an hourly or non-exempt employee, you could find yourself in the unemployment line.

Getting an Excused Absence

An excused absence is the scheduled or unscheduled time off from work that occurs when an employee is not present at work during a normally scheduled work period.

An excused absence is further defined as:

  • Scheduled in advance with the employee's manager or supervisor, such as a vacation.
  • The employee notifies their employer in advance of their scheduled shift in the case of an unexpected emergency or illness.
  • Or, the employee provides an acceptable reason upon return to work, often with proof backing up their reason for missing work.
  • Events that cannot be scheduled outside of regular work hours. This includes vacations, medical appointments, military service, family activities, surgery, jury duty, funerals, and more.

Why Scheduled Absences Are Important

By company guidelines and procedures, even employees who have a paid time off policy or vacation days, sick days, and so forth, provided by the company, are asked to schedule time off in advance. This allows the manager to plan coverage for the work in the employee's absence.

Covering an absence is much easier to do when the employee's work is knowledge-based rather than a customer-facing or production role. For this reason, managers must often stagger time-off requests to ensure the business runs smoothly and enough employees are available to work each day.

In the case of exempt or salaried employees, excused absences are usually not part of the discussion as these employees are expected to perform their whole job no matter their attendance. Thus, their hours and days of attendance at work are rarely tracked. A coaching session with their manager will occur if the employee fails to attend work on the schedule committed to or fails to meet expectations because of insufficient time spent accomplishing work.

Paid Absences

Absences are generally compensated when their frequency and rationale fall within the guidelines established in the organization's attendance policy. These paid absences may depend upon certain requirements from the employee.

For example, an employee may be required to seek permission before scheduling vacation time. They may also be required to call in and report an unscheduled absence within the organization's timelines and expectations—before 7 a.m. and must speak directly with the supervisor or manager, not leave a message on an answering machine, for instance.

Absences and the Attendance Policy

In companies that have an attendance policy, especially for non-exempt employees, excused absences can include days that are excused after the fact. Quite often, proof such as a doctor's note attesting that the employee was sick may need to be submitted for the excused absence to occur.

  • Companies that track excused vs. unexcused absences normally have a written policy that provides guidelines for employees to follow.
  • In these companies, excused vs. unexcused absences may be significant in that too many unexcused absences can mean dismissal from the job.