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Address Unscheduled Absences as They Occur
By Peggie Bednar
President of Palmetto, SC, Branch 631 and Postmaster of Rock Hill
I don’t know about you, but I work for the Postal Service in exchange for a paycheck. I do not work for free, volunteer or provide charity to my employer when my talent and training are an asset to the company that employees me.
What does it mean to be an employer? “Employer, noun: A person, firm or other entity which pays for or hires the services of another person.” It might be said it is ideal for the employer to have production without employees and ideal for the employee to have income without work; however, we all know this is not reality for most.
As EAS employees, we perform a particularly important job. Most of us ensure craft employees are working to expectations and provide administrative duties set by our employer. Knowledge of your job duties and responsibilities keeps you informed of the expectations for which the organization pays you.
EAS employees should not be working the window, carrying mail, sorting mail, loading vehicles of mail or any other duties specific to craft employees. I am sure you all agree, but what can we do when craft staffing falls short in meeting daily expectations?
We should be planning our craft employees’ schedules a week in advance so we are aware of craft shortages, then adjust the schedule to fill in the gaps. As a Level-22 postmaster, I’m well aware of the daily challenges of employee attendance. But, first, I must ask you: What have you done to increase employees’ awareness to be regular in attendance?
Are you setting yourself up for failure or unnecessary stress by ignoring or, worse yet, saying to yourself, “I just don’t have time to address their attendance.” Really?! Too many postmasters, managers and supervisors are saying we just don’t have the time. It’s more important now than ever to make time to hold your employees accountable for being regular in attendance.
If you need assistance holding your employees accountable, contact your local Labor Relations specialist to help. They have a plethora of knowledge and can provide you the tools necessary to ensure you are successful in holding your employees accountable for their actions.
For unscheduled absences, an employee must notify the supervisor or proper official as soon as they realize they will be unable to report for duty. Immediately on returning to duty, the employee must submit a PS Form 3971, Request for or Notification of Absence, and explain the reason for the unscheduled leave.
Every time an employee reports off work, you should be conducting an attendance review. It literally takes a few minutes to have the employee sign a Form 3971 and advise them where they stand with regard to their attendance. Then, document, document, document.
Keep a small notebook or something to jot down your discussions with employees. Your documentation will be vital down the road when it may become necessary for corrective action. Your notes are your notes and not to be shared with anyone.
The Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM), Section 511.42, Management Responsibilities, reads: “To control unscheduled absences, postal officials:
a. Inform employees of leave regulations.
b. Discuss attendance records with individual employees when warranted.
c. Maintain and review PS Form 3972, Absence Analysis, and PS Form 3971.”
Also, keep in mind an important section of the ELM— Section 513.361, Three Days or Less, which reads in pertinent part:
“For periods of absence of 3 days or less, supervisors may accept the employee’s statement explaining the absence. Medical documentation or other acceptable evidence of inca-pacity for work or need to care for a family member is required when the employee is on restricted sick leave (see 513.39) or when the supervisor deems documentation desirable for the protection of the interests of the Postal Service. Substantiation of the family relationship must be provided if requested.”
The key words are “may accept,” which means you are not required to accept. Other important key words in the language are “or when the supervisor deems documentation desirable for the protection of the interests of the Postal Service.” If you believe one of your employees is trying to pull a fast one, you have the right to request documentation for protecting the interests of the Postal Service.
If the absence is over three days, the employee is required to submit medical documentation or other acceptable evidence of incapacity for work. Don’t wait until your employees call off to advise them of these requirements. Service talks are the easiest way to inform employees of your expectations and USPS requirements.
We are at the beginning of a new quarter, with half of the current fiscal year behind us. I challenge each of you to set aside 10 to 15 minutes each day to devote to addressing employee attendance. Once you address employee attendance on a daily basis, I promise you will see a change with reducing unscheduled absences.
Employee attendance can be a problem and major cause of stress that greatly reduces your time and energy. Instead, address unscheduled absences as they occur. Do not wait until it’s out of control.
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Alexandria, VA 22314-2753