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Contingency planning: 4 steps to prepare for the unexpected

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What is contingency planning?

Why is contingency planning important, 4 steps to develop a contingency plan.

Most days at work are business as usual — you hope. Unfortunately, there are also days where nothing seems to go right. Sometimes, these hiccups are just part of running an organization. And some days, they can be a major disruption in your work.

Because your clients and customers are relying on you to deliver as promised, it’s critical that you have a backup plan in place. There’s no way to prevent all mishaps from occurring, but you can minimize their impact with a little strategic planning .

Rather than waiting for the worst-case scenario to play out, companies — and individuals — can put together a contingency plan. This helps to ensure that normal business operations continue as smoothly as possible.

Learn what a business contingency plan is, why you should have one, and how to start planning in this article.

Contingency planning is a part of a business’ risk management strategy. It’s how companies foresee potential disruptions to the business. 

Contingency planning is an action plan put in place to help individuals, teams, and organizations minimize disruption. In common terms, we think of this as “plan B.” Contingency plans are less about how to mitigate negative events and more about proactively developing problem-solving skills.

While traditionally, contingency planning have been an area of focus for managers and organizations, there are many benefits for individuals as well.


To understand contingency planning, it’s best to take a broad view. Sure, when companies have a crisis management plan in place, everyone sleeps a little better at night. It’s nice to know that you’ll know what to do if something happens.

But in life — as well as in business — the only real constant is change. As Tina Gupta, VP of Talent and Employee Experience at WarnerMedia puts it , “Change is not something to solve for.” Fear of change and uncertainty leads people to hide from it, interpreting every bit of rough air as a sign of an impending crash.

When you embrace a future-minded perspective , you no longer have to be afraid of uncertainty. Contingency planning becomes a strategy to be proactive instead of reactive . It’s an exercise in looking for ways to thrive instead of survive. 

BetterUp calls this type of person a future-minded leader . Rather than running from potential threats or pretending everything is fine, they cultivate an agile mindset . These people combine optimism, pragmatism, and the ability to envision the future (or, what positive psychologists call prospection ).

Contingency planning example:

Let’s look at how WarnerMedia has been able to embrace contingency planning as a tool to build a psychologically safe environment.

Conducting a risk assessment

Before you can create a contingency plan, you need to identify the risks that may impact your business. The best way to do this is with the support of your team. Hold a brainstorming session where you can talk through recent experiences, upcoming initiatives, and common pitfalls.

This type of risk assessment can't protect you from being surprised. Tomorrow will hold unexpected events, many of which never happened before in your organization (months-long pandemic shutdowns anyone?) Instead think of this assessment as surfacing the things you can prepare for and opening up everyone's imagination to the range of possible obstacles and outcomes. This will prime the pump for awareness, a flexible mindset, and solution-seeking orientation.

Don’t make the mistake of limiting the meeting to just managers. Your entry-level employees and individual contributors will have a lot of insight as to what could happen — and how to handle it.

Companies often make strategic planning an annual event, but you should review your contingency plan more frequently. Risk assessment should ideally be a natural part of planning for every new initiative.


Here are 4 steps to develop a contingency plan for your team:

1. Identify the triggers

What are the risks? The first step in contingency planning is knowing which scenarios you’re preparing for. It’s impossible to predict everything, but chances are you can think of one (or ten) worst-case scenarios that would throw operations off.

Put these scenarios in order of likelihood. The most probable and important ones will form the backbone of your contingency plan.

2. Examine the situation

In your hypothetical scenario, what would be the most likely course of action? Write that down, but be sure to ask: is it the best course of action? If your new plan is significantly different from what you’ve done before, you’ll want to talk it over with your leaders.

Get your team involved in this stage of the process. One of the benefits of planning in advance is that you have time to brainstorm responses. If the disruption has happened before, ask them what they did to resolve it and what they wish they had done differently.

3. Determine who needs to know

Once you’ve created a viable plan, determine who the stakeholders are. Identify who needs to know as soon as plans change and who will be responsible for kicking plan B into gear. If anyone needs to authorize purchases, provide access to resources, or otherwise support the plan, make sure that they know as well. 


4. Practice

If you can, do a practice run of your disaster recovery plan. The specifics will vary depending on the “disaster,” but running through the plan is a useful exercise. It will help you spot areas that you might not be able to predict in advance.

For example, when the coronavirus pandemic sent millions of workers into lockdown, companies that already had remote work policies in place were in the ideal position for the change. Companies that relied on brick-and-mortar workplaces had to quickly develop strategies to ensure remote team members had the technology and support they needed to work from home for an extended period of time. 

How to maintain a contingency plan

In general, it’s a good idea to review your contingency plan on (at minimum) an annual basis. However, there may be other events that might trigger a review of your recovery strategies.

There are three main parts to your plan: the trigger (or unexpected event), the planned course of action, and the people involved. If any of these change, you’ll want to update your plan. 

For example, moving to a new system, platform, or workflow would cause a change in both your Plan As and Plan Bs. If you hire for a new role that sits between functions, that may change the people involved.

Final thoughts

Your business continuity plan isn’t just an exercise in preparedness. It’s an opportunity to help your teams learn how to become more agile and creative problem solvers.

Everyone, from a project management team developing a contingency plan for rolling out a new sales incentive, an IT team planning for a new system to go live, or a manager coaching an employee through creating a contingency plan for meeting work deadlines, needs to develop this skill. In a time of uncertainty and constant change, thinking through possible problems and alternatives in advance is part of life. 

Gupta of WarnerMedia says that empowering her team through coaching has helped them "move from overwhelm to thriving through change." When they trust themselves, the company, and the plan, employees become more confident. They’re more willing to take risks and trust each other.

When things go awry, your plan won’t just minimize the potential impact. It will empower your team to thrive in uncertainty as they respond to whatever gets thrown their way.

Lead with confidence and authenticity

Develop your leadership and strategic management skills with the help of an expert Coach.

Allaya Cooks-Campbell

With over 15 years of content experience, Allaya Cooks Campbell has written for outlets such as ScaryMommy, HRzone, and HuffPost. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and is a certified yoga instructor as well as a certified Integrative Wellness & Life Coach. Allaya is passionate about whole-person wellness, yoga, and mental health.

It depends. Understanding the contingency theory of leadership

Contingent workforce management: what employers need to know, leaders are prioritizing well-being over leadership skills in the post-covid workplace, the secret to developing managers that help your business thrive, when the new normal is a no-show: why future-mindedness is the mindset organizations need now, meet the future-minded leader: your organization’s answer to uncertainty, how to build a high performance team, according to patty mccord, leading people as people, a conversation with cynt marshall, ceo of the dallas mavericks, building the human transformation company: the principles that shape our future, similar articles, struggling with control issues coaching can help, how to excel at life planning (a life planning template), 10 characteristics for becoming a successful entrepreneur, do more than survive — thrive in turbulent seasons, strategic planning: read this before it's that time again, how to use strategic foresight to stay ahead of the curve, 4 reasons why you can't afford to skip out on succession planning, stay connected with betterup, get our newsletter, event invites, plus product insights and research..

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How do project managers deal with unplanned leaves?

Mahendra Gupta

A firm’s workforce is the major asset for the organization. Your project’s success and business profitability rely on their talent and performance. It’s therefore imperative for project managers to ensure their well-being to deliver the projects on time and within budget.

Productivity and the work-etiquette of your resources decide the fate of your projects. For instance, if a highly-skilled employee takes a leave unexpectedly during the course of a project, it will hamper the project’s progress. Moreover, if other tasks are dependent on this one, it will have a domino effect bringing the project to a stop.

Apart from the accounted sick and planned leaves, if you observe prolonged absenteeism, then it is a matter of concern. The reason behind this can be either personal or professional. It’s the job of the project manager to find out the root cause and implement the right measures to avoid unscheduled absenteeism.

This article explains in-depth the effects, causes, and ways to tackle unplanned leaves at the workplace.

Get a Holistic View of Resource Schedules

How does unplanned absenteeism affect the project’s health?

A project is divided into various tasks that are mostly dependent on each other. For example, let’s say you are working on a software development project. From, designing the prototype to coding and testing the product, every task relies on the other’s progress. If you don’t have an initial design ready, you can’t code, and if you don’t have a code, you can’t test it.

Now that we know every task is crucial and is critically dependent on the other one, imagine your coder (resource) suddenly went on leave for a long time. With no backup plan in place, your project’s progress is restricted causing unnecessary delays and budget overrun.

In some situations, project managers might overload another resource with the same task to keep the project going. It will cause overutilization and lead to employee burnout affecting the resource’s health index.

In a nutshell, unplanned absences have a cascading effect on the project’s progress, timeline, and finances eventually impacting the overall profitability.

Read More: The Effects of Low Productivity on Business Growth

So, what are the causes of these leaves?

Causes of unplanned leaves

Employees can take off for both personal and professional reasons. The personal reasons entail sickness, a pressing family matter, bereavement, and stress. In such cases, it’s the job of the manager to be supporting and understanding to help their employees cope better.

Personal reasons are not concerning as long as resources are back in time. However, if professional reasons are causing the absenteeism, then managers need to jump in and take charge. Here is a list of possible reasons,

  • Employee burnout This is one of the major causes of increased absenteeism. If the resource is overloaded with work and has to meet unrealistic deadlines, it will lead to burnout. A Deloitte study states that “ nearly 30% of the burnout is caused due to impractical deadlines or expectations. “ In turn, they will start skipping work days and take unscheduled leaves.
  • Lower morale and motivation Employees feel motivated and engage better when their work is acknowledged and rewarded. In case, this is missing, it will naturally make them feel undervalued and they will not feel like showing up to work.
  • Bullying or harassment If a resource experiences an unpleasant situation at the workplace where he/she is being pestered, they will want to avoid it by skipping workdays. This can be due to the absence of an anti-harassment cell or committee where employees can report the incidents.
  • Mismatched skillset Sometimes, employees’ skills, capabilities , and interests are not aligned with the projects they are assigned to. It can subsequently lead to disengagement, frustration, and ultimately be one of the main contributors to unplanned leaves.

comprehensive guide

These are the most tangible reasons for unplanned leaves. As an employer, one must implement the right measures to provide an optimistic work environment and avoid these absences.

Here is how you can leverage a resource management tool to deal with unplanned absenteeism,

How can a resource management tool help with unscheduled absences?

Since employee burnout is one of the major causes of unplanned leaves, managers can employ an intuitive resource management tool to deal with it. Using the advanced features of the tool, resource managers can go ahead and manage the resources and their utilization levels effectively.

You can utilize the following functionalities of the tool to address this issue,

Optimizing resource utilization

Unscheduled absences reduce the overall capacity of the organization. In this situation, to keep the project on course, project managers end up overloading some resources. To refrain from doing so, managers can equip the tool and get a birds-eye view of the resources and the projects.

To allocate the work to another resource, you can go ahead and enter the requirements using advanced filters. This will give you the list of resources who are the right fit for the task along with their availability. You can now schedule the task for employees who have the bandwidth and will not be overallocated.

This process will help you optimize the utilization levels of each resource and ensure that no one is over or under-allocated.

Read More: Maximize Profitable Resource Utilization with Modern Resource Management Solution

Create a backup plan for the critical tasks

The unannounced absences can be dealt with during the project planning stage as well. Every project has some critical tasks which cannot be stopped midway or it will bring the project to a standstill. When you are drawing out your project plan and scheduling resources for the tasks, you can create a backup plan for these critical ones.

Taking the same example of a software development project, managers can book a parked or generic resource for the coding task. In this case, if at all the coder goes on leave, you have a backup ready when you need one. It will keep the project going without causing any delays.

Keep a buffer during capacity planning

Often it happens where decision-makers load 100% of a resource’s capacity to one project itself. This is an impractical step as a resource might spend some time on admin tasks or other BAU activities. Instead of doing this, managers can take a smart step and load 50-60% of two or more employees’ availability to the critical task.

So, even when a resource booked for a critical task goes on leave, you have other resources with the same skillset to take up the job. This will save you from two hassles- for one , your project’s progress is not hampered and for two , you are saving your resources from getting overutilized .

Thus, intelligent scheduling and resource loading during the project planning stage can help you create a contingency plan for these times.

Read More: What is Resource Planning, and Why is it Important in Project Management?

This is how implementing a robust tool can help you tackle absenteeism. In addition to this, one can focus on minimizing the leaves by rethinking their managerial approach. Here are some tips on how to reduce unplanned absences at your workplace,

How to minimize unplanned absenteeism at the workplace?

Formulate a clear attendance policy.

Documenting a crisp and clear attendance policy helps you to set some standards regarding absenteeism. It should include the following,

  • Kind of leaves available for employees
  • Rules related to paid and unpaid leaves
  • The process to apply for leave
  • Consequences for prolonged absenteeism
  • How the leaves are recorded in your firm

When your resources are aware of the rules and regulations your firm follows, they are likely to manage their calendar better.

Read More: How to Reduce Absenteeism in the Workplace

Invest in a physical and mental wellness program

Your workforce’s well-being has a direct impact on their productivity. Furthermore, when you put their health at the forefront, the workforce feels valued at the firm. Employers must therefore invest in a wellness program that can include free gym membership, free psychological consultation, regular health check-ups, or it can be even as small as curating a balanced lunch menu.

When employees are doing well and their health is taken care of, they are less likely to take unannounced sick leaves.

Avoid micromanagement and encourage autonomy

According to a study , 85% of employees said micromanagement negatively impacted their morale and 71% claimed it interfered with their performance. To keep this from happening, project managers should instill trust in their employees and let them manage their work.

When resources have the autonomy to carry out their tasks, they will work with all their might to reduce errors and ensure quality . On the other hand, if they are constantly told what to do, they will eventually lose interest and start taking leaves. Steve Jobs once said, ‘It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.

Read More: Project Resource Management: An Ultimate Guide on How to Master it

Provide flexible work policies

A b etter work-life balance is a top priority for employees these days. In fact, it plays a direct role in enhancing productivity and performance . When your workforce is able to work better while taking care of their personal life, inculcating a work-from-home policy will be a win-win for both.

Furthermore, managers should provide liberty to their employees to choose their tasks. For example, if you have two top-priority projects with the same resource demand , you can consider your employee’s task preference. These practices will make them feel heard and they will know their opinions matter. This eventually leads to better engagement and increases the work rate.

Build the right infrastructure for a better work environment

Your physical work environment impacts productivity as much as your work culture does. In fact, decision-makers are taking initiatives to improve their workplace and working conditions. Forbes says, 70% of employers have improved their physical environments to encourage healthy behaviors.

Thus, to promote a healthy and positive work environment, managers should restructure their workspaces.

Employees will feel empowered to work better and stick around when their well-being is your top priority.

Integrate IDP in your work policy

Every employee in your firm has certain goals and aspirations to excel in their career. When their goal aligns with the firm’s ultimate vision, they will engage themselves better. They expect that their development is taken into account while they are working for you. Every employee in your firm has certain goals and aspirations to excel in their career. When their goal aligns with the firm’s ultimate vision, they will engage themselves better. They expect that their development is taken into account while they are working for you.

It’s a manager’s duty to create Individual development plans to cater to your resource’s professional development. You can conduct regular one-on-ones to know about their future goals and plans. If your employees see their growth matters as much as your firm’s, they will stay with you for the long haul.

The Takeaway

The onus is on managers to keep their workforce inspired and motivated to help them perform better. This can be done at ease when you have the right mix of environment and culture. The above-mentioned tips will help you empower your workforce.

With your continuous efforts, your employees will be encouraged to turn up to work every day. Along with this, the right tool will help you deal with sudden leaves that are unavoidable. So, how have you been managing the unscheduled absenteeism so far?

The SAVIOM Solution

SAVIOM is no doubt the market leader in offering the most powerful and configurable Enterprise Resource Management Solution. Having more than 20 years of experience, this Australian-based MNC has a global presence in over 50 countries. It is also popular with more than 100 customers and helping them to achieve their business goals. SAVIOM also has products for project portfolio management, professional service automation, and workforce planning software which can be easily customized as per business requirements.

The Ultimate Guide to an Efficient Resource Management

The Ultimate Guide to an Efficient Resource Management

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Employee Absence Management: Best Practices for a Resilient Workforce

Tomislav Rucevic

Employee absence management is an inevitable aspect of any organization’s operations. Whether due to illness, personal reasons, or legal requirements, managing employee absences effectively is crucial for maintaining productivity, ensuring employee well-being, and adhering to labor laws. Absence management is not merely about tracking time off; it encompasses a comprehensive approach to address various types of absences and their impact on the workplace.

In this guide, we will delve into the world of absence management and explore the best practices that can empower HR professionals to create a resilient and thriving workforce. We will cover everything from understanding different absence types to assessing their true costs and implementing effective strategies

By adopting best practices and leveraging advanced software solutions, businesses can navigate the challenges of employee absences, create a resilient workforce, and achieve sustained success in today’s dynamic and competitive landscape.

  • Definition and Importance of Absence Management

Different Types of Absences

Long-term vs. short-term absences, assessing the cost of employee absences, effects of employee absences on workforce and productivity.

  • Effective Absence Management Strategies

The Role of Absence Management Software

Definition and importance of employee absence management.

Employee Absence management can be defined as the strategic process of proactively managing and addressing employee leaves of absence in an organization. It involves developing policies, procedures, and practices to handle various types of absences, both planned and unplanned while ensuring compliance with relevant labor laws and regulations.

The importance of effective absence management cannot be overstated. It is a critical aspect of human resource management that directly impacts an organization’s productivity, financial performance, and employee well-being.

Let’s explore the key reasons why absence management is of paramount significance:

Absence management is an essential component of successful human resource management. Its strategic implementation not only ensures operational efficiency and cost control but also supports a healthy work environment and strengthens employee engagement. Embracing best practices in absence management empowers organizations to build a resilient and thriving workforce, poised for sustainable growth and success.

Learn more: Absence Management Software by Softworks

Absences in the workplace can be classified into various categories based on their nature and occurrence. Understanding these different types of absences is essential for effective absence management.

Scheduled Absences

Scheduled absences refer to planned leaves that employees arrange in advance with their supervisors or HR departments. These absences are typically for personal reasons or specific events and are known to the organization well ahead of time. Some common examples of scheduled absences include:

• Vacation Leave: Time off taken by employees for leisure, travel, or personal activities.

• Personal Days: Additional leave days provided to employees for personal reasons not covered under other leave categories.

• Planned Leaves: Leaves requested by employees for events such as weddings, family functions, or educational pursuits.

Scheduled absences offer the advantage of predictability, enabling organizations to plan workforce schedules and allocate resources accordingly. HR teams can effectively manage these absences through clearly defined leave policies, ensuring minimal disruption to business operations.

Unscheduled Absences

Unscheduled absences are unexpected or unplanned leaves that employees take due to illness, emergencies, or unforeseen circumstances. These absences often require prompt action and can pose challenges for organizations. Common examples of unscheduled absences include:

• Sick Leave: Time off taken by employees due to personal illness or injury.

• Emergency Leave: Unforeseen time off required for emergencies, such as a family member’s medical crisis or a natural disaster.

• Unexpected Absences: Leaves taken due to sudden situations that prevent an employee from attending work, such as car accidents or personal emergencies.

Unscheduled absences can disrupt workflows and affect productivity if not managed effectively. It is essential for HR professionals to have contingency plans in place and maintain open communication with employees to understand the reasons behind such leaves.

Leave under Legal Regulations

In many countries, employees are entitled to specific types of leave under labor laws, either at the federal or state level. These legal regulations may grant employees various types of leave, such as:

• Maternity and Paternity Leave: Paid or unpaid leave provided to new parents following the birth or adoption of a child.

• Family and Medical Leave: Job-protected leave for qualified medical and family reasons.

• Military Service Leave: Leave provided to employees serving in the armed forces.

• Jury Duty Leave: Leave given to employees summoned for jury service.

Managing leaves under legal regulations requires HR teams to stay informed about the applicable laws and ensure compliance. It is essential to handle these leaves sensitively and supportively, considering the impact they may have on both the employee and the organization.

By recognizing and categorizing the different types of absences, organizations can develop tailored absence management strategies and policies that address the unique challenges presented by each category. An efficient absence management approach contributes to a harmonious work environment, improved productivity, and better overall employee satisfaction.

Long-term and short-term absences are two distinct categories of employee leaves, each with its own implications for the workplace. Understanding the differences between these types of absences is vital for effective absence management.

Let’s explore these categories and their impact on the workplace.

Defining Long-term Absences and Their Impact on the Workplace

Long-term absences refer to extended periods of leave taken by employees due to serious medical conditions, injuries, or other significant life events. These absences typically last for several weeks or months and can create challenges for employers and teams. Common examples of long-term absences include:

• Extended Medical Leave: Leave taken for recovery from major surgeries or severe illnesses.

• Maternity or Paternity Leave: Extended leave taken by new parents following the birth or adoption of a child.

• Rehabilitation Leave: Leave taken for rehabilitation after injuries or accidents.

Long-term absences can have substantial implications for the workplace, including a temporary loss of skilled employees, reduced team productivity, and increased workloads for remaining staff. Effective absence management strategies for long-term absences involve providing support to the absent employee, maintaining open communication, and planning for a smooth return-to-work transition.

Understanding Short-term Absences and the Bradford Factor

Short-term absences, on the other hand, refer to frequent and brief periods of leave taken by employees for various reasons, such as illness, personal emergencies, or minor health issues. These absences are typically unplanned and can occur sporadically. A critical tool for managing short-term absences is the Bradford Factor.

The Bradford Factor is a formula used by organizations to measure the impact of short-term absences on their operations. It calculates an absence score based on the number of instances of absence and the total number of days absent. The formula recognizes that multiple short, frequent absences have a more significant impact on a company than longer, continuous absences.

For example, an employee with four separate one-day absences in a month may have a higher Bradford Factor score than an employee with a single two-week absence. The Bradford Factor helps employers identify patterns of absence and potential abuse of leave. By using this data-driven approach, HR professionals can address the root causes of short-term absences and implement appropriate measures to reduce their impact on productivity and team dynamics.

An effective absence management strategy for short-term absences involves conducting return-to-work interviews, offering support for employees facing personal challenges, and promoting a healthy work environment that encourages open communication regarding leave requests.

Employee absences can have significant financial implications for organizations. Apart from the direct cost of paying for the time off, there are various hidden costs associated with employee absences that can impact the organization’s bottom line. To effectively manage absences, it’s crucial to assess the costs involved and implement strategies to mitigate their impact.

Let’s explore the key aspects of assessing the cost of absences:

Calculating the Financial Impact of Absences on the Organization

Calculating the financial impact of absences involves quantifying the direct costs associated with employee leaves. These costs typically include:

• Paid Time Off: The monetary value of the leave days paid to the absent employees.

• Temporary Staffing: The cost of hiring temporary staff to cover for the absent employee’s workload.

• Overtime: The additional expense incurred when other employees work extra hours to compensate for the absence.

Organizations can use absence management software to track and record the cost of absences accurately. By having this data readily available, businesses can make informed decisions to manage workforce planning and allocate resources effectively.

Hidden Costs of Employee Absences – Lost Productivity, Overtime, and Training

Beyond the direct financial costs, employee absences can result in several hidden costs that are often overlooked. These costs can have a substantial impact on productivity and operational efficiency. Some of the hidden costs include:

• Lost Productivity: The work that remains uncompleted or delayed during the absent employee’s leave can lead to a decline in overall productivity and output.

• Overtime Expenses: Overtime costs incurred by other employees to cover the workload during the absence can accumulate over time.

• Training and Onboarding: If temporary staff is brought in to cover for the absent employee, there may be training and onboarding costs associated with getting them up to speed.

Moreover, frequent or extended absences can lead to decreased employee morale and engagement among the remaining workforce. This can result in lower team dynamics, decreased collaboration, and potential burnout among employees covering for their absent colleagues.

By considering these hidden costs, organizations can develop a comprehensive view of the true impact of employee absences on their operations. Implementing proactive absence management strategies, such as encouraging a healthy work-life balance, promoting employee well-being, and utilizing flexible work arrangements, can help mitigate these hidden costs and maintain a positive work environment.

Employee absences can significantly impact team dynamics, workloads, and overall productivity in the workplace. Managing these effects requires proactive strategies to maintain a smooth workflow and ensure a productive work environment. Let’s explore the key aspects of how absences affect the workforce and productivity, along with strategies to mitigate disruptions:

Identifying How Absences Impact Team Dynamics and Workloads

When an employee is absent, it can have ripple effects on the entire team. Some of the ways absences can impact team dynamics include:

• Increased Workloads: The workload of other team members may increase as they need to cover for the absent employee’s tasks and responsibilities.

• Reduced Collaboration: Team members may face challenges in coordinating and collaborating on projects, leading to delays and inefficiencies.

• Decreased Morale: Frequent or prolonged absences can lead to decreased morale among the remaining team members, affecting their motivation and engagement.

Identifying these effects is crucial for understanding the specific challenges posed by absences and developing targeted solutions.

Strategies for Maintaining Productivity during Employee Absences

To maintain productivity during employee absences, organizations can implement the following strategies:

• Cross-Training and Skill Sharing: Cross-training team members in multiple roles ensures that there are backup resources available to handle tasks during absences.

• Workload Redistribution: Distributing the workload among team members effectively can help prevent excessive burden on any single individual.

• Prioritization and Time Management: Identifying critical tasks and prioritizing work can help the team focus on essential activities during absences.

• Project Planning and Contingency: Including contingency plans in project management ensures that potential absences are accounted for and addressed in advance.

These strategies promote a proactive approach to absence management, enabling the organization to continue its operations smoothly even when faced with employee leaves.

Mitigating Disruptions and Maintaining Smooth Operations

To mitigate disruptions caused by absences and maintain smooth operations, organizations can consider the following practices:

• Flexible Work Arrangements: Offering flexible work options, such as remote work or flexible hours, can provide employees with a better work-life balance and reduce the impact of unplanned absences.

• Return-to-Work Support: Providing support to employees returning from extended absences, such as reintegration programs or reduced workloads during the transition period, helps ensure a smooth return to their regular responsibilities.

• Encouraging a Positive Work Culture: Fostering a positive and supportive work culture encourages open communication regarding absences and promotes a sense of responsibility among employees to minimize unplanned leaves.

By identifying how absences impact team dynamics, implementing productivity-enhancing measures during absences, and mitigating disruptions through thoughtful practices, organizations can create a resilient and productive work environment even in the face of employee absences.

Effective Employee Absence Management Strategies

Effective absence management is vital for maintaining a healthy work environment, optimizing productivity, and supporting employee well-being. By implementing well-defined strategies, organizations can proactively address employee absences and foster a positive and supportive workplace culture.

Let’s explore the key strategies for effective absence management:

1. Promoting a Healthy Work Environment

A healthy work environment plays a crucial role in reducing employee absences. Organizations can promote a healthy workplace culture by:

• Offering Employee Wellness Programs: Providing wellness initiatives, such as fitness classes, mental health support, and stress management workshops, can help employees maintain their well-being and reduce the risk of illness-related absences.

• Emphasizing Work-Life Balance: Encouraging work-life balance through flexible work schedules and paid time off can contribute to employee satisfaction and reduce burnout.

2. Implementing Absence Policies and Procedures

Clear and well-communicated absence policies and procedures are essential for managing employee leaves. The absence policy should outline:

• Types of Leaves: Specify different types of leaves available to employees, including vacation, sick leave, parental leave, and other applicable categories.

• Request and Approval Process: Clearly define the process for requesting leaves and obtaining necessary approvals.

• Reporting Requirements: Establish guidelines for reporting absences, including timelines and appropriate channels for notification.

3. Tracking and Recording Absences

Effective absence management relies on accurate and up-to-date records of employee leaves. Organizations can use absence management software to:

• Centralize Absence Data: Use software to consolidate all absence-related information, making it easier to track trends and patterns.

• Automate Leave Requests: Implement an automated system for employees to request leaves and for managers to approve or decline requests.

• Monitor Absence Trends: Use data analytics to identify trends in absences and address potential issues proactively.

4. Offering Flexible Work Arrangements

Flexible work arrangements can help employees manage their work and personal responsibilities, reducing the need for unscheduled absences. Organizations can consider:

• Remote Work Options: Allowing employees to work remotely, either occasionally or on a regular basis, can provide flexibility during certain circumstances, such as inclement weather or personal emergencies.

• Flexitime: Offering flexible work hours allows employees to adjust their schedules to accommodate personal needs, reducing the need for time off.

5. Encouraging Communication and Support

Open communication and supportive management are vital for addressing absences effectively. HR and managers can:

• Conduct Return-to-Work Interviews: Engaging in return-to-work discussions can help identify any underlying issues and provide necessary support to employees.

• Offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP): EAPs can provide confidential support to employees facing personal challenges, helping them manage stress and other issues that may contribute to absences.

By adopting these effective employe absence management strategies, organizations can create a work environment that promotes employee well-being, reduces absenteeism, and ensures a high level of productivity and employee satisfaction. Proactive absence management practices contribute to a positive company culture and drive the organization’s success in the long run.

Absence management software is a powerful tool that revolutionizes how organizations handle employee leaves and absenteeism. This technology-driven solution streamlines the entire absence management process, from requesting leaves to tracking and reporting absences.

Let’s explore the role of absence management software and its numerous benefits for businesses.

Introduction to Absence Management Software

Absence management software is a specialized platform designed to automate and optimize all aspects of managing employee leaves. This cloud-based solution centralizes absence data, making it easily accessible to HR teams, managers, and employees. By replacing manual processes with an efficient digital system, absence management software significantly reduces administrative burdens and enhances accuracy and compliance.

Benefits of Absence Management Software

Streamlined processes, enhanced transparency.

The software provides real-time visibility into leave balances and approvals, allowing employees to track their available leave days and managers to plan work schedules accordingly.

Improved Compliance

Absence management software automates compliance with legal regulations, ensuring that the organization adheres to labor laws and internal leave policies.

Data-Driven Insights

The software generates reports and analytics on absence trends, helping HR professionals identify patterns and potential issues that may require attention.

Reduced Administrative Burden

Automating absence management tasks frees HR teams from tedious administrative work, enabling them to focus on strategic HR initiatives and employee engagement.

Increased Employee Engagement

With a user-friendly interface and self-service capabilities, absence management software empowers employees to manage their leaves efficiently, leading to higher satisfaction and engagement.

Features to Look for in a Software Solution

When choosing an absence management software solution, organizations should consider the following essential features:

Leave Request Management

Integration with hr systems, reporting and analytics, compliance management, mobile access, self-service portal.

A user-friendly self-service portal empowers employees to manage their leaves independently, reducing HR intervention for routine tasks.

Notifications and Reminders

Automated notifications and reminders keep employees and managers informed about leave statuses and pending approvals.

Effective absence management is a cornerstone of building a resilient and thriving workforce. Organizations must recognize the significance of managing employee absences proactively to maintain productivity, ensure employee well-being, and foster a positive work environment. By understanding the different types of absences, including scheduled and unscheduled leaves, and the impact of long-term versus short-term absences, businesses can tailor their absence management strategies to meet specific challenges.

Moreover, calculating the true cost of absences, including hidden expenses like lost productivity and overtime, empowers organizations to make informed decisions and implement cost-effective measures. Absences can disrupt team dynamics and increase workloads for remaining staff, but with thoughtful strategies in place, such as cross-training and workload redistribution, organizations can maintain productivity even during employee leaves.

Furthermore, adopting effective absence management practices, such as promoting a healthy work environment, offering flexible work arrangements, and encouraging open communication, creates a positive workplace culture that supports employee well-being and engagement. Leveraging absence management software further streamlines processes, enhances transparency, and provides valuable data-driven insights for better decision-making.

By embracing these best practices, organizations can navigate the complexities of employee absences, build a resilient workforce, and thrive in today’s ever-changing business landscape.

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Tomislav Rucevic, an SEO Specialist at Softworks, stands out as more than just a marketer. He’s a fervent writer and influential thinker passionate about Workforce Management, HR, and work-life dynamics. Holding an MBA in Marketing, Tomislav excels in creating content that delves into the complexities of the modern workplace.

His dedication to writing on these topics is highlighted in his MBA thesis, which examined the link between Employee Motivation and Quality Improvement. At Softworks, he expertly merges his SEO skills with his writing prowess, contributing to the company’s digital success and advancing discussions on enhancing work environments and achieving work-life balance.

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Enterprises are often defined by how they deal with events that are out of their control. For example, how you react to a disruptive technology or cope with a sudden change in the markets can be the difference between success and failure.

Contingency planning is the art of preparing for the unexpected. But where do you start and how do you separate the threats that could do real harm to your business from the ones that aren’t as critical?

Here are some important definitions, best practices and strong examples to help you build contingency plans for whatever your business faces.

What is a contingency plan?

Business contingency plans, also known as “business continuity plans” or “emergency response plans” are action plans to help organizations resume normal business operations after an unintended interruption. Organizations build contingency plans to help them face a variety of threats, including natural disasters, unplanned downtime, data loss, network breaches and sudden shifts in customer demand.

A good place to start is with a series of “what if” questions that propose various worst-case scenarios you’ll need to have a plan for. For example:

  • What if a critical asset breaks down, causing delays in production?
  • What if your top three engineers all quit at the same time?
  • What if the country where your microprocessors are built was suddenly invaded?

Good contingency plans prioritize the risks an organization faces, delegate responsibility to members of the response teams and increase the likelihood that the company will make a full recovery after a negative event.

Five steps to build a strong contingency plan

1. make a list of risks and prioritize them according to likelihood and severity..

In the first stage of the contingency planning process, stakeholders brainstorm a list of potential risks the company faces and conduct risk analysis on each one. Team members discuss possible risks, analyze the risk impact of each one and propose courses of action to increase their overall preparedness. You don’t need to create a risk management plan for every threat your company faces, just the ones your decision-makers assess as both highly likely and with a potential impact on normal business processes.

2. Create a business impact analysis (BIA) report

Business impact analysis (BIA) is a crucial step in understanding how the different business functions of an enterprise will respond to unexpected events. One way to do this is to look at how much company revenue is being generated by the business unit at risk. If the BIA indicates that it’s a high percentage, the company will most likely want to prioritize creating a contingency plan for this business risk.

3. Make a plan

For each potential threat your company faces that has both a high likelihood of occurring and a high potential impact on business operations, you can follow these three simple steps to create a plan:

  • Identify triggers that will set a plan into action: For example, if a hurricane is approaching, when does the storm trigger your course of action? When it’s 50 miles away? 100 miles? Your teams will need clear guidance so they will know when to start executing the actions they’ve been assigned.
  • Design an appropriate response: The threat your organization prepared for has arrived and teams are springing into action. Everyone involved will need clear, accessible instructions, protocols that are easy to follow and a way to communicate with other stakeholders.
  • Delegate responsibility clearly and fairly: Like any other initiative, contingency planning requires effective project management to succeed. One proven way to address this is to create a RACI chart . RACI stands for responsible, accountable, consulted and informed, and it is widely used in crisis management to help teams and individuals delegate responsibility and react to crises in real time.

4. Get buy-in from the entire organization—and be realistic about cost

Sometimes it can be hard to justify the importance of putting resources into preparing for something that might never happen. But if the events of these past few years have taught us anything, it’s that having strong contingency plans is invaluable.

Think of the supply chain problems and critical shortages wreaked by the pandemic or the chaos to global supply chains brought about by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. When it comes to convincing business leaders of the value of having a strong Plan B in place, it’s important to look at the big picture—not just the cost of the plan but the potential costs incurred if no plan is put in place.

5. Test and reassess your plans regularly

Markets and industries are constantly shifting, so the reality that a contingency plan faces when it is triggered might be very different than the one it was created for. Plans should be tested at least once annually, and new risk assessments performed.

Contingency plan examples

Here are some model scenarios that demonstrate how different kinds of businesses would prepare to face risks. The three-step process outlined here can be used to create contingency plans templates for whatever threats your organization faces.

A network provider facing a massive outage

What if your core business was so critical to your customers that downtime of even just a few hours could result in millions of dollars in lost revenue? Many internet and cellular networks face this challenge every year. Here’s an example of a contingency plan that would help them prepare to face this problem:

  • Assess the severity and likelihood of the risk: A recent study by Open Gear showed that only 9% of global organizations avoid network outages in an average quarter. Coupled with what is known about these attacks—that they can cause millions of dollars in damage and take an immeasurable toll on business reputation—this risk would have to be considered both highly likely and highly severe in terms of the potential damage it could do to the company.
  • Identify the trigger that will set your plan in action: In this example, what signs should decision-makers have watched for to know when a likely outage was beginning? These might include security breaches, looming natural disasters or any other event that has preceded outages in the past.
  • Create the right response: The organization’s leaders will want to determine a reasonable recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) for each service and data category their company faces. RTO is usually measured with a simple time metric, such as days, hours or minutes. RPO is a bit more complicated as it involves determining the minimum/maximum age of files that can be recovered quickly from backup systems in order to restore the network to normal operations.  

A food distribution company coping with an unexpected shortage

If your core business has complex supply chains that run through different regions and countries, monitoring geopolitical conditions in those places will be critical to maintaining the health of your business operations. In this example, we’ll look at a food distributor preparing to face a shortage of a much-needed ingredient due to volatility in a region that’s critical to its supply chain:

  • Assess the severity and likelihood of the risk: The company’s leaders have been following the news in the region where they source the ingredient and are concerned about the possibility of political unrest. Since they need this ingredient to make one of their best-selling products, both the likelihood and potential severity of this risk are rated as high.
  • Identify the trigger that will set your plan in action: War breaks out in the region, shutting down all ports of entry/exit and severely restricting transport within the country via air, roads and railroads. Transportation of their ingredient will be challenging until stability returns to the region.
  • Create the right response: The company’s business leaders create a two-pronged contingency plan to help them face this problem. First, they proactively search for alternate suppliers of this ingredient in regions that aren’t so prone to volatility. These suppliers may cost more and take time to switch to, but when the overall cost of a general production disruption that would come about in the event of war is factored in, the cost is worth it. Second, they look for an alternative to this ingredient that they can use in their product.

A social network experiencing a customer data breach

The managers of a large social network know of a cybersecurity risk in their app that they are working to fix. In the event that they’re hacked before they fix it, they are likely to lose confidential customer data:

  • Assess the severity and likelihood of risk: They rate the likelihood of this event as high , since, as a social network, they are a frequent target of attacks. They also rate the potential severity of damage to the company as high since any loss of confidential customer data will expose them to lawsuits.
  • Identify the trigger that will set your plan in action: Engineers make the social network’s leadership aware that an attack has been detected and that their customer’s confidential information has been compromised.
  • Create the right response: The network contracts with a special response team to come to their aid in the event of an attack and help them secure their information systems and restore app functionality. They also change their IT infrastructure to make customer data more secure. Lastly, they work with a reputable PR firm to prepare a plan for outreach and messaging to reassure customers in the event that their personal information is compromised.

The value of contingency planning 

When business operations are disrupted by a negative event, good contingency planning gives an organization’s response structure and discipline. During a crisis, decision-makers and employees often feel overwhelmed by the pile-up of events beyond their control, and having a thorough backup plan helps reestablish confidence and return operations to normal.  

Here are a few benefits organizations can expect from strong contingency plans:

  • Improved recovery times: Businesses with good plans in place recover faster from a disruptive event than companies that haven’t prepared.  
  • Reduced costs—financial and reputational: Good contingency plans minimize both financial and reputational damage to a company. For example, while a data breach at a social network that compromises customer information could result in lawsuits, it could also cause long-term damage if customers decide to leave the network because they no longer trust the company to keep their personal information safe.
  • Greater confidence and morale: Many organizations use contingency plans to show employees, shareholders and customers that they’ve thought through every possible eventuality that might befall their company, giving them confidence that the company has their interests in mind.

Contingency plan solutions

IBM Maximo Application Suite is an integrated cloud-based solution that helps businesses respond quickly to changing conditions. By combining the power of artificial intelligence (AI) , Internet of Things (IoT) and advanced analytics, it enables organizations to maximize the performance of their most valuable assets, lengthen their lifespans and minimize costs and downtime.

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The 6-Step Process For Dealing With Employee Absenteeism

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At first glance (or late clock in), employee absenteeism and tardiness may not seem like that big of a deal. After all, emergencies happen. Shifts get rearranged, and it can feel good watching your team come together and cover for a sick coworker. But what if every once in a while becomes at least once a month, or even once a week? What if absenteeism stops becoming every now and then, and instead becomes a pattern of behavior?

What is employee absenteeism?

Employee absenteeism is a frequent lack of attendance at work without valid cause. Absenteeism does not include the occasional no-call, no-show or instances that can’t be controlled, like illness or car trouble.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics , 7.8 million workers had an illness-related work absence in January 2022, up 110% from the 3.7 million from the previous year. In 2022, absenteeism cost U.S. companies $225.8 billion, about $1,685 per employee.

How to deal with employee absenteeism in the workplace

Employee absenteeism can be difficult to address once it’s become a habit or accepted behavior by your team. After all, you can’t force employees to show up to work on time. But instead of watching the costs of unexpected absences add up, try this six-step process to reduce employee absenteeism in the workplace:

1. Create an employee attendance policy 

The first step in learning how to handle employee absenteeism? Create an official employee attendance policy . Workplace attendance should be straightforward—show up on time, as scheduled. But in reality, figuring out how to track, document, and fix employee absenteeism can get complicated, and come with a lot of IFTTW—if that, then what—scenarios. What if an employee comes in 45 minutes late, but still shows up? What if they have a sick child or another emergency? What if they don’t show up for work at all? Then what?

It doesn’t matter if your business doesn’t have an official HR department or if you have five or fifty employees. An official attendance policy makes expectations for work behavior and disciplinary action clear to all team members. So take some time now to put together a policy that’s fair to both you and your employees. Consider different attendance issues like scheduled absences, unscheduled absences, and tardiness, then decide any necessary disciplinary actions and next steps for each. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Instead, focus on creating a policy that rules out subjectivity and defines what each type of absence means in clear, plain language.

Download the free employee attendance policy and customize it to your needs!

contingency plan for unplanned leave

Once you’re finished, don’t just stick your brand new attendance policy in a binder on the shelf or hide it in the fine print of an employee handbook. Make sure every employee, including new hires, has the chance to see it and is made aware of the changes. Emphasize the importance of attendance as a shared responsibility and that everyone is expected to hold up their end of the bargain. Have your employees sign a waiver confirming that they’ve read the policy and that they consent to work under the new attendance requirements. It’s a good idea for your records to confirm it in writing should any disciplinary issues arise later. And speaking of disciplinary issues…

2. Enforce your attendance policy consistently

A habit doesn’t crop up overnight. A pattern of employee absenteeism is something that develops over time and may already be seen as accepted behavior by the time the issue lands on your desk. In order to learn how to handle employee absenteeism in the workplace, you have to enforce your attendance policy consistently, each and every time.

That doesn’t mean you can’t show employees empathy or can’t have any wiggle room for emergencies. Instead, proactively build those situations into your policy. Have some escalation for unscheduled absences. One may be acceptable, but two may trigger a formal review. But remember: an unscheduled absence is much different than a “no-show.”

Texting that they’ll be late, swapping with a coworker, or calling in sick at least gives you notice that an employee won’t make it into work as scheduled and may give you time to find a replacement or prepare for an understaffed shift. A no-show can leave you wondering where they are, what happened, and leave your entire team hanging. Have a different plan of action for both attendance scenarios and apply it to all employees—including supervisors and management.

3. Keep track of employee absences  

When it comes to dealing with employee attendance, it’s important to keep complete records. How to track employee absenteeism depends on what works best for you and any shift leads or supervisors who will be enforcing the attendance policy. One easy way to track your employees’ time is with a time clock app , which provides useful clock in/clock out notifications right away.

Every time an absence arises, make a note of it, either in your employee timekeeping system or in an employee performance tool. Or, consider putting together a stand-alone spreadsheet just for tracking attendance issues and timesheets . Without a strategy in place for how to document employee absenteeism at work, it may be hard to keep track of employee attendance and flag when one-off unscheduled absences start to become a pattern.

If your team is small enough, limiting access to yourself may be enough to track employee behavior. But if you’re not able to be everywhere at once, make sure other supervisors also have a way of documenting absences and late arrivals—even if it’s just a separate column or a notation on that weeks’ shift schedule.

Why document everything? Most states have legalized at-will employment , meaning employees can be dismissed without employers having to establish “just cause” for termination. However, that doesn’t mean you have a blank check to fire whoever you want —bad firing practices can still put you at risk for a wrongful termination suit, and your first line of defense is a well-documented paper trail.

Absences can also fall under the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance, which provide employees with legal protection or accommodation for different types of absence “events.” Some states have enacted mandatory paid sick leave as well. Keep track of different absences, including both scheduled and unscheduled absences, to make sure you’re fulfilling your legal requirements as an employer. And in the case that you do need to let an employee go for absence-related issues, you’ll have a record that supports your decisions.

Related: 10 Best Attendance Apps For Your Business | When I Work

4. Address unscheduled absences and no-shows immediately

Absences happen. But when an employee does call in sick or fails to show up for a shift, directly address the situation. Don’t let too much time (or even another absence) pass in between. Once they return to work, sit down and have a conversation about what happened, why it happened, and what’s expected of them moving forward. Make sure they know if their absence has triggered any type of disciplinary action or a performance plan.

Depending on how long the absence has been, you may even want to hold a formal return-to-work interview. Past research has shown that return-to-work interviews positively impact absence rates and may even work better for small employers. By addressing absences first thing when they return, employees will recognize that their behavior is taken seriously and isn’t sliding by unnoticed.

5. Don’t just treat the symptoms, discover the cause

Like we talked about earlier, there are valid legal reasons for extended employee absences like FMLA or ADA compliance. For other scenarios, now’s the time to decide where you’ll draw the line. How often can an employee call in on Fridays and Mondays before it triggers formal action? Can they just not seem to make it in on time every other Tuesday? Is one no-show too many?

If you’re noticing a pattern in an employees’ attendance, call it out. Ask them directly why their absences tend to fall on certain days, and use your documentation as evidence. Point out specific times and dates and see how they respond.

You may find out there are other things outside of work impacting your employee’s attendance and leading to excessive absences. There may have been a shift in their daycare schedule which makes it hard to find a babysitter on certain days of the week. They may have started night classes and be struggling to make it in on time in the mornings. In the end, it may not be the employee at all, but their schedule.

If your employees have valid reasoning for excessive absences and their performance is strong otherwise, find a way to correct things together. Create a performance improvement plan, update employee availability forms , and adjust schedules where you can as needed. Set goals for them over the next 30 days—including no more absences or tardiness. But if they’re just missing work to kick off their weekend early, it’s time for some hard decisions.

The key here is not to let things go too far. Hopefully, your new employee attendance policy will flag and correct attendance issues at their start. Keeping an open line of communication with your employees can also help them feel comfortable discussing any issues with their work schedules that could lead to absences.

6. Don’t forget to reward good behavior  

Think back to which of your employees missed work, came in late, or called in sick over the last month. Now, think of the ones who didn’t. Was it harder? Easier? Who stood out more?

In the workplace, absence is often felt more strongly than presence, and for good reason. If someone doesn’t show up to do their job, it puts a strain on the entire team. But what about the employees who do show up on time every day and keep your business running smoothly in the background?

Let’s take a look at the statistics:

  • Employees who don’t feel recognized at work are twice as likely to say they intend to quit in the next year , while employees who are recognized are more loyal and engaged.
  • In today’s growing millennial workforce, up to 76% of millennials say they would leave a job if they didn’t feel appreciated .
  • Only one in three workers in the U.S. “strongly agree” that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days.

Recognizing employees for good attendance and performance can be one of the lowest cost, yet highest impact strategies for your business. While you may want to focus on weeding out the employees with poor performance, you don’t want to lose the great employees you have in the process. Find a way to call out and reward good attendance on a regular basis. Incentivize employees to make the list next month by offering rewards they won’t want to miss, like an extra day off or a chance to choose their own schedule for a week.

Start your free 14-day trial of When I Work! Click here to start scheduling your employees today.

contingency plan for unplanned leave

Track employee absenteeism with When I Work

There’s no overnight solution when it comes to how to fix employee absenteeism. You’re likely still going to field calls about surprise “food poisoning” or the always-convenient Friday flu. But by implementing a fair employee attendance policy , documenting and tracking attendance patterns, having an action plan, and remembering to call out good attendance as often as the bad, unscheduled absences will start to become the exception, not the rule.

When you use When I Work to build your employee schedule, you give your team the ability to request time off and swap and drop shifts to help you stop attendance issues at the root. You can also use When I Work to run attendance reports and track trends, so you can be sure to address any concerns before they become bigger challenges.

You may not be able to solve every attendance scenario, but you’ll be able to set fresh expectations for your team and have a strategy in place for employee absenteeism moving forward.

Sign up for your free 14-day trial of When I Work to help you take control of absenteeism in the workplace.

FAQs: Absenteeism in the workplace

Q: What is absenteeism in the workplace?

A: Absenteeism in the workplace is the frequent lack of attendance by an employee without a valid cause. It does not include rare instances of unavailability due to uncontrollable situations such as illness or car trouble.

Q: What can absenteeism cost businesses?

A: Absenteeism can be costly for businesses. In 2020, for instance, absenteeism reportedly cost U.S. companies approximately $3,600 for each hourly worker.

Q: How can businesses deal with absenteeism in the workplace?

A: Businesses can address absenteeism by implementing a fair employee attendance policy, consistently enforcing it, keeping complete records of absences, addressing unscheduled absences and no-shows immediately, trying to understand the underlying causes of absences, and rewarding good attendance.

Q: What is the role of an employee attendance policy in managing absenteeism?

A: An employee attendance policy plays a crucial role by making expectations for work behavior and disciplinary action clear to all team members. The policy should define different types of absences and the respective consequences in clear language.

Q: How important is it to document absences in the workplace?

A: Documenting absences is vital as it enables businesses to track attendance patterns and identify when occasional unscheduled absences become a pattern. It also serves as a record that supports decisions in the case of absence-related disciplinary issues or terminations.

Q: How can a business reward good behavior to manage absenteeism?

A: This can be achieved by regularly acknowledging employees who consistently show up on time and offering incentives such as an extra day off or the chance to choose their own schedule for a week.

Q: How can understanding the cause of absenteeism help in managing it?

A: Understanding the cause of absenteeism helps businesses to tackle the issue more effectively. If the causes are related to personal or scheduling issues, businesses can work with the employees to adjust schedules or create performance improvement plans. This approach helps address the root cause of the problem, rather than just the symptoms.

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Handling Long-Term Absences in Your Team

Preparing early for extended leaves.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

contingency plan for unplanned leave

Chin-Hae handles some of his company's most important accounts, and his team leader, Jan, depends on his contribution to get the team's job done. Unfortunately, a member of Chin-Hae's family has fallen ill unexpectedly, and he needs to take some time off to care for her.

While Chin-Hae is away, Jan telephones him frequently to say that work is piling up. She tells him that his colleagues are struggling under the extra workload, and that they have to work longer hours to cover for him. She hints that, if Chin-Hae stays away much longer, she might have to hire a permanent replacement.

Chin-Hae finds this extremely stressful. He feels under pressure to return to work, even though his family still needs him at home. Because of Jan's behavior, he is thinking about resigning altogether.

Unfortunately, coping with an extended absence is an inevitable part of working in a leadership role. Sooner or later, someone will get sick, be hurt in an accident, go on maternity leave, or have to care for a family member.

While you can't predict who will need an extended leave of absence or when it will happen, you can control its impact by planning ahead. A well-thought-out plan helps the rest of your team remain productive and happy. It also gives absent team members peace of mind, knowing that their projects or accounts will be taken care of, and that they won't return to a mountain of work.

In this article and video below, we look at how you can prepare for both planned and unexpected long-term absences.

The actions you need to take to manage any particular case of long-term absence will be covered by national/state law and your organization's HR policies. Take appropriate HR or legal advice as soon as you discover that a member of your team will be absent for the long term.

The Impact of Long-Term Absence

In 2007, shares in Lloyds Banking Group slumped after Chief Executive António Horta-Osório took a sudden and extended absence for a stress-related sleep problem.

According to recent pieces of research done by the UK Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), long-term absences like Horta-Osório's are on the rise, thanks to increasingly common incidences of stress and chronic illness such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Other reasons for long-term absence include caring for aging parents or young children, military service, jury duty, recovering from an accident, and other family or life commitments.

The impact of long-term absence can be significant. In the U.K., Dame Carol Black's and David Frost's 2008 study found that sickness absence costs British employers approximately £11 billion a year, with long-term illness accounting for up to 75 percent of this sum.

Other, direct and indirect costs to businesses include lost productivity, customer dissatisfaction, poor work quality, temporary staffing costs, and costs of training for replacement staff.

Effective planning and management can help to reduce the costs associated with long-term absence, and it can ease people's return to work when the absence is over.

Laws on Extended Leave

It is important to be aware of the employment laws that protect team members' rights when they are on long-term leave.

For example, in the U.S., the Family and Medical Leave Act allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks off for illness or family responsibilities. During this time, employers are obliged to protect their job, and to continue to provide health insurance coverage.

In the U.K., people are only considered to be long-term sick, according to government guidelines , after being absent from work for four weeks or more, and they are entitled to a fixed rate of statutory sick pay for 28 weeks. If they are unable to return to work within a reasonable time after this, they can be fairly dismissed. ("Reasonable" is related to the nature of the job and the resources of the business.)

How to Plan for a Long-Term Absence

It is important that you make contingency plans for long-term absence. Work flow and productivity can rapidly decline if there is no plan to replace absent team members, and this can have a knock-on effect on everyone else on the team.

Likewise, failing to plan for a person's return to work after a long period away can lead to high levels of stress and anxiety, which can lead to further absences, burnout and lower productivity.

Use the strategies below to prepare for possible long-term absence on your team.

1. Build Trust

Without trust, your team members are unlikely to come to you with their problems. This can mean that you only learn about a problem that requires a leave of absence when someone calls to tell you that they can't come to work.

If people are confident that you will show them support and understanding, they are far more likely to discuss worries about ailing parents or chronically ill family members with you, giving you a chance to plan ahead.

To build trust within your team, take time to get to know everyone personally. Share personal stories, and ask about their friends, families and hobbies.

How you handle absences has a direct effect on how quickly and easily absent team members return to work. Try to demonstrate sensitivity, compassion, empathy , and understanding about their situations.

2. Document Processes

Good Knowledge Management practices will help you to reassign work during a leave of absence.

Make sure that you clearly document all of the processes your team uses, and that key knowledge is recorded (this can be in databases, knowledge management systems or wikis.)

This way, everyone on your team will know where to go for essential information when a core team member is unavailable.

3. Meet One-to-One

When a leave of absence is imminent, meet with your team member one-to-one. Talk openly about his upcoming absence, and about any concerns that he may have.

Use Empathic Listening during this conversation to show trust and support. While you may not want to get too personal, ask leading questions to find out why he needs to take leave and, if possible, how long he expects to be away.

It is possible that he won't know how long his absence will be. Ask him about maintaining contact during his absence. Find out if he can be available if questions or emergencies come up. Agree the boundaries in advance, such as when, how and by whom he would like to be contacted.

It's essential to show support, sensitivity and compassion during this meeting. It is likely that your team member is feeling anxious about taking extended leave. Let him know that the organization will support him during his absence and that you want to keep him in the loop while he's away.

4. Plan a Successful Handover

When you know that someone is going to take a leave of absence, plan ahead to ensure that the handover is successful .

Use DILO (Day in the Life of) Analysis to get the person taking leave to write an updated job description, a list of upcoming deadlines and current project goals, and a list of her daily responsibilities.

If she works directly with clients or suppliers, ask her to make a list of her contacts, noting any important information about each account.

Talk to her openly about accessing her email account or company cell phone while she's away – transparency is important to maintain trust. (Check with HR that you are entitled to do this.) And give the team member taking over in her absence all the support and information he or she needs to handle his or her new responsibilities.

Help whoever is taking over as much as possible. Choose the best person for the job, then give her on-the-job training or shadowing, so that she has a sense of what her new responsibilities entail.

Coping With an Unexpected Absence

You can't prepare for every absence or emergency, but you can plan ahead for the unexpected absence of core team members by conducting a risk analysis and creating a contingency plan , just in case.

A 2010 report by Standard Insurance Company found that, during an absence, replacement employees are 21 to 29 percent less efficient and 15 to 44 percent more expensive than the absent employee.

You can offset some of these costs by making sure that everyone on your team is cross-trained. Cross-training gives you a highly flexible workforce, so that you can delegate tasks and roles with confidence during an unexpected absence.

You can also plan ahead by making a list of your team's strengths and skills, and by imagining which other roles team members would thrive in. This "matchmaking" game can be useful when a long-term absence takes you by surprise.

When you delegate responsibilities to another member of the team, take care to monitor his work hours so that he doesn't suffer from burnout or exhaustion. This is especially important when team members are doing more than one job. You might also need to adjust their compensation, based on this additional work.

Easing Team Members Back Into Work

Returning to work after an extended absence can be difficult for some people – especially if they are recovering from a long-term illness – so it is important that you manage the situation carefully. Consider implementing the following suggestions:

  • Before she comes back to work, encourage her to "break the ice" by meeting colleagues for lunch or coffee to catch up and re-establish relationships.
  • Ask if there's anything you can do to ease the transition. For example, team members who have been ill might need to leave early, take frequent breaks, or make changes to their desk or workspace.
  • Communicate any changes to her work routine, client list or responsibilities. Update her on the progress of projects that she was working on before she left, and introduce her to any new or upcoming projects that she is going to be involved with, now that she is back.
  • Don't expect her to return to "full force" from day one. It might be better if she returns part-time for a week or two, with minimal responsibilities, until she gets back into the swing of things. Bear in mind that she may need support for several weeks or months after she returns. In this case, consider assigning a fellow team member to assist with certain responsibilities.
  • Working from home can be an effective way to reintegrate team members, as it's usually low-stress and they can take breaks as they need to. If it's appropriate, ask your returning team member if she would prefer to work from home for a while, to help ease her transition.

Life can be unpredictable, which means that it's highly likely that you'll need to cope with a team member's long-term absence at some point in your career. As a manager, you need to know how to prepare for both expected and unexpected long-term absences.

To prepare for a planned leave, make sure that everyone on your team is cross-trained, so that other people can share the load. Document all of the processes in your organization and keep this information up to date and accessible, to help with this.

When the time comes for absent team members to return to work, help to ease the transition by allowing them to return part-time or to work from home. Provide a full update on the status of their projects and communicate any changes to their role and routines that happened while they were away. Consider providing help with certain duties until they are up to speed again.

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5 Ideas for Building a Leave Management Policy

By: carlos on Jan 25, 2018 12:00:00 AM

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Workplace absenteeism is expensive. According to a joint 2014 Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM)/Kronos study, paid absences account for 20.9 to 22.1 percent of total payroll. Their calculations didn’t include the direct and indirect costs of planned, unplanned and unpaid absences, which include lost productivity and morale, and temp worker costs. In other words, bad leave management planning isn’t just bad HR policy, it’s bad revenue management.

That’s why building a company and employee-friendly leave management policy requires taking hard data points about attendance and productivity into account, along with the soft skills for personnel management. These five tips on building a leave management policy share a mix of ideas that address both sides of the absentee management equation.

1. Identify your parameters.

This is an issue of hard data. There are laws and regulations, from federal and local, that govern when employees must be given leave, and whether that’s paid or unpaid. There are also labor and employee contract provisions, leave best practices for your industry, as well as employee expectations in a job market that currently favors employees.

A leave management policy does a company no good if the company can’t crunch the numbers to determine what amount of leave it must provide on an employee and company level, and what level of daily absences it can handle while maintaining operations. Having the leave business rules and leave tracking data in a time and attendance system that keeps the company compliant with all its legal, market and financial obligations is paramount.

2. Simplify as much as possible; automate what you can.

Including complicated request processes, long review times, and barriers to leave-related information can doom a leave policy before the voluminous policy can get printed out. Automate what you can to simplify how employees, managers and HR handle leave issues. Empower employees through employee self-service terminals where they look up their own information to see their accruals and submit electronic requests. Streamline the approval/denial for managers by using data dashboards that give them a clear picture of workforce utilization that makes knowing whether a specific request can be granted or denied easy.  That lets you build employee-friendly principles into the leave policy.

3. Contingency plan for common emergencies.

The costliest absences are the unplanned ones. Of course, accidents and emergencies happen. The goal of this contingency planning is to avoid managers and HR having to scramble to fill in position lost time with other worker on short notice. The first part of the contingency planning is defining what constitutes different sorts of unplanned emergencies, so employees know what and when their obligation to notify their manager is triggered. Getting a jury duty notice or a call to come in to a child’s school doesn’t offer as much notice time as maternity leave, but it does offer more than an accident or family death.  In the spirit of simplifying as much as possible, don’t bog your policy down by trying to describe every type of contingency. The key is to make clear to employees what their required notification window is based on timing of the triggering event.

4. Set clear notification and deadline processes.

Clarity and expectation management avoids frustration. The leave policy should clearly state what the deadline obligations are for employees to make requests, especially as regards high request volume times like holidays or back-to-school. It should make clear the deadline obligations of managers and HR to respond. Automate how you provide reminders, which could be via email, push notifications to desktops or employee time clock terminals, or even text messages.

5. Include management training on using leave to avoid employee burnout.

Employee burnout is a leading driver for unplanned absences. Those “mental health” days that never seem to get scheduled, but always pop up. A leave management policy should recognize the truth that burned out employees aren’t happy, productive employees and set requirements regarding how much time off employee must take . Not just “use it or lose it” by the end of the year or letting them exchange vacation days for cash – but a policy of making sure employees who haven’t taken any time off within a certain amount of time, do so.

A 2016 survey by Morar Consulting found that one of the top three drivers to burn-out was too much overtime . Employees literally getting overworked. Your manager-focused leave management policy should guide them on the importance of tracking, managing and limiting employee overtime.

Here’s one last bonus tip for building a leave management policy: Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. The leave management manual should communicate not just what the policy and processes are, but also the goals and reasons behind them. Tools can make it easy to comply with leave policies, but sharing the whys and wherefores helps create buy-in by employees and improves policy adherence. And high leave policy adherence means your company is minimizing the operational and financial impact of employee absences.

While ATS is passionate about time and attendance and excited to support organizations navigate workforce dynamics around timekeeping, we recommend you reach out to your regional and/or local HR chapter for more information on common workplace advice and procedures.

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Planning for time off

What’s your plan if you need to take time off work?

Sickness, injury and other life events that require extended time off work can happen at any time. When you own a business and that business depends on you, taking unexpected leave can threaten your operations and financial situation.

Developing a plan of action for unplanned leave is a proactive way to protect you and your business. It can be a real safety net knowing you have contingencies in place, if you ever need to take time away from the business for you, or a family member’s physical and mental health.

Tips for developing a contingency plan for unexpected leave

  • Financial insurances: It’s important to establish a financial safety net to use in the case you can’t work. You can put aside revenue during productive times for this purpose or consider income protection insurance. If you don’t already have this insurance through your super fund, talk to a financial advisor or business advisor to ensure you have adequate coverage for your needs.
  • Identify who can step in: Talk to family members, business partners, employees and friends with an interest in the business to establish who would be willing to take over or lend a hand in your absence.
  • Prioritise business activities: Decide what parts of your business can safely remain unattended, and what functions need to be attended to immediately, and in the short-term while you are away. These essential duties will be of critical importance to the business. You can attend to non-essential activities when you return, as part of a longer term recovery plan.
  • Provide training: Find out what knowledge gaps need filling and what training is required for others to carry out all of the essential business tasks. Make sure you provide this training in advance so everyone’s prepared.
  • Develop a manual for running your business: Documenting all the essential functions can make training the people who will be stepping in much easier and more efficient. Break each essential task down step-by-step and collate this information into a manual or folder. For example, how to answer the phone, invoicing processes, security details such as computer and phone passwords and who can authorise payments on your behalf.
  • Document frequently asked questions: Create templates for your standard forms and emails, and start building a ‘FAQ’ database, with your responses to common customer and supplier queries.
  • Investigate outsourcing options: Are there any business functions that could be outsourced in your absence? For example, could you utilise virtual office services for answering calls and emails, mail forwarding or other administrative duties?
  • Establish co-op opportunities with ‘competitors’ or sub-contractors: Establish relationships with others in your field who can take work referrals in an emergency or on a short-term basis. Such arrangements are about ensuring your customers get continuity of service in your absence. You’ll be in a stronger position if you establish these relationships early, as opposed to trying to negotiate in an emergency situation.
  • Remote access to the office: Make the most of technology to keep your business running by setting up remote access to your files, so you can access key information no matter where you are. Online data storage options (cloud systems) are now readily available and affordable.
  • Government assistance: Be aware of what other assistance may be available to assist you and your business in the event of hardship. For example, explore what Centrelink benefits might be available and how the ATO can help alleviate some pressure around meeting tax and super commitments.
  • Get feedback from a professional: Consider talking through your plan with your accountant, lawyer, financial advisor, business advisor or mentors. They might have some useful feedback and advice to support the planning process.
  • Share your plan with your partner and/or other family members: Ensure your plan is shared with those around you, in case they are the ones who will be left to organise things and set your plan in place if you are unwell or incapacitated.
  • Review the plan every 12 months: Test and review your plan every year to make sure it is up-to-date with your contacts and business practices.

Further Reading

Business continuity plan.

A business continuity plan involves making a plan for how your business can prepare for, and continue to operate after, an incident or crisis that you did not expect.

Succession planning

In addition to planning for unexpected leave, it’s important to write a succession plan for when you decide to sell up, retire or have to get out of the business due to health reasons.

Mindtools contingency planning resource

This online resource provides information and templates for contingency planning using a risk management approach.

Flying solo article on preparing for sickness

An article written for sole traders about the need to prepare in advance for unexpected ill-health.

Wellbeing Plan

This resource exclusive to Ahead for Business can be used to identify possible stressors and implement personal and at work practices that support you in your business journey.

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contingency plan for unplanned leave

  • Lee Alexander
  • Jan 28 2022

Managing unplanned absences in the workplace

Managing unplanned absences in the workplace

Unplanned absences are a fact of life in the workplace. Whether someone falls sick or needs to care for a loved one, each person in your company will need to take unplanned leave at some point. If someone falls sick, they may take leave to manage their mental health, take care of children, or attend a personal emergency. 

Recently, we have seen more extreme effects of unplanned leave as coronavirus cases have increased across Australia. Many workplaces have found themselves short-staffed as people have fallen sick or had a loved one fall seriously ill.

If you do not have the right policies or workforce management software, unplanned leave can take a more significant toll than it needs to.

How unplanned absences impact the workplace

Costs to the business.

Unplanned absences incur costs to the business in a few different ways. When an employee is absent, your company must cover that shift. You might have to pay other employees overtime to cover for absent employees.

Lost productivity also impacts business costs. If you cannot replace the absent employee, work may have to be rearranged or postponed, leading to lost productivity.

Unplanned absences create additional work for your HR department, generating higher administrative costs. If the person suddenly becomes absent for a longer period, you will have the cost of hiring and onboarding a new person.

Decreased productivity

Employees absent from work without notice can disrupt the workflow and leave their colleagues picking up the slack. Additionally, these employees may miss important deadlines or delay project completion. Ultimately, this can lead to decreased productivity and a loss of money.

When employees are not in the office, they are often unable to complete their work tasks, resulting in a backlog of work. In 2021, 34% of businesses with staff shortages cited the availability of existing employees as a key reason they were short-staffed.

Poor morale

Unplanned absences can also impact employee morale when other people pick up the slack for absentees. Especially for project-based work, employees that take unplanned absences disrupt the workflow and could put deadlines at risk of being missed. If the employees covering for them need to manage additional work and stress, they may produce lower-quality work, further impacting morale.

When people repeatedly cover absent colleagues, their stress can increase, and productivity might lessen. They may also begin feeling overworked and undervalued.

Causes of unplanned absences

Recently, unplanned absences have become a concern for many managers, and leaders as COVID-19 cases across NSW have spiked. Even outside a pandemic, illnesses, injuries and medical appointments remain key reasons for unplanned absences.

  • As the COVID pandemic has disrupted personal and professional lives, mental health problems have increased . People may need to take time off if they have struggled to maintain good mental health.
  • Parents may take unplanned leave if they need to fulfil childcare requirements; their usual caregiver might not be available on that day, or they may need to stay home and care for a sick child.
  • Workplace bullying impacts an employee’s ability to come to work. When an employee experiences workplace bullying, they may start feeling anxious or stressed, which leads to them taking time off work. They may also feel uncomfortable coming to work if they have a shift with the bully and may call in sick for those particular instances.

Strategies for managing unplanned absences

To make unplanned absences easier on you, the business, and the person taking time off, it is best to implement a few strategies for managing absenteeism.

Put policies in place to manage absenteeism

Ensure you have policies that designate how employees should inform you of their absence and if they need documentation regarding their absence upon their return to work. When onboarding employees, you should make sure they are aware of your policies in the event of an unplanned absence. For example, you may require employees to provide a doctor’s note when they return to work after taking sick leave.

Monitor why employees were absent

Unplanned absences become larger issues when one person takes a lot of unexpected leave. At these times, you need to speak with the person to pinpoint why they have taken unplanned leave and how you can reduce future absences.   

Discuss why the person is absent

Your employee likely is not absent for no reason. If you notice someone has taken a lot of unplanned leave, it is worth discussing why that is the case. Perhaps they require support for something in their personal life, need flexible childcare arrangements, are experiencing issues with colleagues, or have other issues in their personal or professional lives.

Prepare for unplanned absences with effective workforce management

One of the best ways to overcome the issues that arise from unplanned absences is to leverage workforce management software that allows you to plan for unexpected absences, track reasons for absenteeism and suggest ways to fill open shifts. Additionally, workforce management software can help you plan for future absences by forecasting staffing needs.

Workforce management software that tracks time and attendance can reduce absenteeism caused by someone committing time theft, wherein they say they are at work, but in reality, they are not.

A workforce management solution should include absence management by default. It can help you reduce the costs associated with unplanned absences by assisting in the extra HR and payroll processes that occur when someone takes time off. It should also deliver information to relevant people in the company on absenteeism.

Absence and leave management with Tambla

A comprehensive strategic workforce management solution is critical to absence and leave management. The right platform can help you cover unplanned absences, reduce the associated costs and boost morale across the organisation. So, you can optimise growth and plan for success today, tomorrow and in the future. Visit our Workforce Management page for more on our capabilities.

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“Unplanned Leave”

Table of contents, understanding unplanned leave in the workplace, causes of unplanned leave, impact of unplanned leave, how can organizations minimize the impact of unplanned leave, what steps should managers take when employees take unplanned leave, how can organizations address patterns of frequent unplanned leave, what role does employee communication play in managing unplanned leave, how can organizations support employees in balancing work and personal obligations to reduce unplanned leave.

Unplanned leave, also known as unscheduled absence or unexpected absence, refers to instances where employees are absent from work without prior notice or approval. These absences can occur due to various reasons, such as illness, family emergencies, or personal issues. Managing unplanned leave effectively is essential for maintaining productivity and ensuring smooth operations. Let’s explore this further:

  • Illness: Employees may need to take unplanned leave due to sudden illness or health-related issues.
  • Family Emergencies: Unforeseen family emergencies, such as accidents or caregiving responsibilities, can lead to unplanned leave policy.
  • Personal Reasons: Employees may require time off for personal reasons, such as appointments, legal matters, or unexpected events.
  • Transportation Issues: Unforeseen transportation problems, such as traffic jams or public transportation delays, can cause employees to arrive late or miss work.
  • Work-Related Stress: High levels of work-related stress or burnout may prompt employees to take unplanned leave for mental health reasons.

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  • Disruption of Workflow: Unplanned leave disrupts the normal flow of work within a team or department. Projects may be delayed, deadlines missed, and tasks left unfinished, leading to inefficiencies and potential bottlenecks in operations.
  • Decreased Productivity: When employees unexpectedly miss work, productivity levels can decline. Work that would have been completed by the absent employee may need to be reassigned or postponed, causing delays and inefficiencies in completing projects or tasks.
  • Increased Workload on Others: Co-workers or team members left to cover for an absent employee may experience increased workloads and added stress. This can lead to burnout, reduced job satisfaction, and potentially lower morale among the team.
  • Employee Morale and Engagement: Unplanned leave can negatively impact employee morale and engagement . Co-workers may feel frustrated or resentful if they have to pick up the slack for an absent colleague, leading to decreased motivation and a sense of unfairness within the team.
  • Financial Costs: Unplanned leave can result in financial costs for the organization. These may include overtime pay for employees covering the absent worker’s responsibilities, hiring temporary staff to fill in, or lost revenue due to decreased productivity or missed deadlines.

Organizations can minimize the impact of unplanned leave by implementing policies and procedures for reporting absences, providing clear guidelines on requesting time off, offering flexible work arrangements, cross-training employees to cover for absent colleagues, and promoting a supportive work culture that prioritizes employee well-being.

When employees take unplanned leave, managers should communicate with the absent employee to understand the reason for the absence, assess the impact on work tasks and deadlines, redistribute workload if necessary, and ensure that other team members are informed and supported. Managers should also follow company policies for documenting and tracking absences.

To address patterns of frequent unplanned leave, organizations can conduct individual meetings with employees to discuss the reasons for their absences, offer support or accommodations if needed, provide resources for managing work-related stress, and establish clear expectations regarding attendance and performance. Consistent communication and proactive management can help address underlying issues and reduce unplanned leave.

Effective employee communication is essential in managing unplanned leave by ensuring that employees understand the procedures for reporting absences, feel comfortable communicating their reasons for leave, and are aware of the impact of their absence on colleagues and work processes. Transparent communication fosters trust and accountability within the team.

Organizations can support employees in balancing work and personal obligations by offering flexible work schedules, telecommuting options, paid time off for personal matters, employee assistance programs for mental health support, and resources for managing caregiving responsibilities. Creating a supportive work environment that prioritizes work-life balance can help reduce the need for unplanned leave.

Unplanned Leave: Unexpected absence from work requiring immediate attention and management.

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What Is Contingency Planning? Creating a Contingency Plan


Table of Contents

What is contingency planning, what is a contingency plan, contingency plan example, how to create a contingency plan, business contingency plans, project contingency plans.

Contingency plans are used by smart managers who are aware that there are always risks that can sideline any project or business. Without having a contingency plan in place, your organization won’t be well prepared for risk management .

The term contingency planning refers to the process of preparing a plan to respond to any risks or unexpected events that might affect an organization. Contingency planning starts with a thorough risk assessment to identify any risks and then develop a contingency plan to resolve them or at least mitigate their negative impact.

Contingency planning takes many shapes as it’s used for helping businesses and projects across industries. Even governments use contingency plans to prepare for disaster recovery or economic disruption, such as those caused by natural disasters.

A contingency plan is an action plan that’s meant to help organizations mitigate the negative effects of risks. In simple terms, a contingency plan is an action plan that organizations should execute when things don’t go as expected.

contingency plan for unplanned leave

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Action Plan Template

Use this free Action Plan Template for Excel to manage your projects better.

Now that we’ve briefly defined what contingency planning is, let’s take a look at a contingency plan example involving a manufacturing project.

Let’s imagine a business that’s planning to manufacture a batch of products for an important client. Both parties have signed a contract that requires the manufacturer to deliver the products at a certain date or there may be negative consequences as stated on the purchase agreement. To avoid this, the business leaders of this manufacturing company start building a contingency plan.

To keep this project contingency plan example simple, let’s focus on three key risks this company should prepare for.

  • Supply chain shortages: The supply chain is one of the most important business processes for this manufacturing company. Therefore, one of the most impactful risks is a raw material shortage which may occur if their main supplier is unable to deliver the materials they need on time. To prepare a contingency action for this risk, the business owners decide to reach out to other suppliers and place standing purchase orders which give them the opportunity to ask for a certain quantity of materials at some point in the future. If the risk of a supply chain shortage occurs, they’ll have multiple sources of raw materials available in case their main supplier can’t keep up with their demand levels.
  • Machinery breakdown: Another risk that might halt production is the malfunction of machinery. To prepare for this, business leaders hire extra maintenance personnel and order spare parts for their production line machinery as part of their contingency plan. If the risk of machinery breakdown becomes a reality, the organization will have the labor and resources that are needed to mitigate it.
  • The team is not meeting the schedule: If the manufacturing team members are failing to meet their goals on time for whatever reason, the manufacturing business will need to allocate more resources such as extra labor and equipment to complete the work faster. However, this contingency action will generate additional costs and reduce the profitability of the project.

ProjectManager has everything you need to build contingency plans to ensure your organization can respond effectively to risks. Use multiple planning tools such as Gantt charts, kanban boards and project calendars to assign work to your team and collaborate in real time. Plus, dashboards and reports let you track progress, costs and timelines. Get started today for free.

ProjectManager's Gantt chart

Like a project plan , a contingency plan requires a great deal of research and brainstorming. And like any good plan, there are steps to take to make sure you’re doing it right.

1. Identify Key Business Processes and Resources

To create an effective contingency plan you should first identify what are the key processes and resources that allow your organization to reach its business goals. This will help you understand what risks could be the most impactful to your organization. Research your company and list its crucial processes such as supply chain management or production planning as well as key resources, such as teams, tools, facilities, etc., then prioritize that list from most important to least important.

2. Identify the Risks

Now, identify all the risks that might affect your organization based on the processes and resources you’ve previously identified. Figure out where you’re vulnerable by brainstorming with employees, executives and stakeholders to get a full picture of what events could compromise your key business processes and resources; hire an outside consultant, if necessary. Once you’ve identified all the risks, you should use a risk log to track them later.

3. Analyze Risks Using a Risk Matrix

Once you’ve identified all the risks that might affect your processes and resources, you’ll need to establish the likelihood and level of impact for each of those risks by using a risk assessment matrix . This allows you to determine which risks should be prioritized.

4. Think About Risk Mitigation Strategies

Now, write a risk mitigation strategy for each risk that you identified in the above steps. Start with the risks that have a higher probability and higher impact, as those are the most critical to your business. As time permits you can create a plan for everything on your list.

5. Draft a Contingency Plan

Contingency plans should be simple and easy to understand for the different members of your audience, such as employees, executives and any other internal stakeholder. The main goal of a contingency plan is to ensure your team members know how to proceed if project risks occur so they can resume normal business operations.

6. Share the Plan

When you’ve written the contingency plan and it’s been approved, the next step is to ensure everyone in the organization has a copy. A contingency plan, no matter how thorough, isn’t effective if it hasn’t been properly communicated .

7. Revisit the Plan

A contingency plan isn’t chiseled in stone. It must be revisited, revised and maintained to reflect changes to the organization. As new employees, technologies and resources enter the picture, the contingency plan must be updated to handle them.

Contingency Plan Template

We’ve created an action plan template for Excel to help you as you go through the contingency planning process. With this template, you can list down tasks, resources, costs, due dates among other important details of your contingency plan.

contingency plan for unplanned leave

A business contingency plan is an action plan that is used to respond to future events that might or might not affect a company in the future. In most cases, a contingency plan is devised to respond to a negative event that can tarnish a company’s reputation or even its business continuity. However, there are positive contingency plans, such as what to do if the organization receives an unexpected sum of money or other project resources .

The contingency plan is a proactive strategy, different from a risk response plan , which is more of a reaction to a risk event. A business contingency plan is set up to account for those disruptive events, so you’re prepared if and when they arrive.

While any organization is going to plan for its product or service to work successfully in the marketplace, that marketplace is anything but stable. That’s why every company needs a business contingency plan to be ready for both positive and negative risk management.

In project management, contingency planning is often part of risk management. Any project manager knows that a project plan is only an outline. Sometimes, unexpected changes and risks cause projects to extend beyond those lines. The more a manager can prepare for those risks, the more effective his project will be.

But risk management isn’t the same as contingency planning. Risk management is a project management knowledge area that consists of a set of tools and techniques that are used by project managers to create a risk management plan.

A risk management plan is a comprehensive document that covers everything about identifying, assessing, avoiding and mitigating risks.

On the other hand, a contingency plan is about developing risk management strategies to take when an actual issue occurs, similar to a risk response plan. Creating a contingency plan in project management can be as simple as asking, “What if…?” and then outlining the steps to your plan as you answer that question.

Using ProjectManager to Create a Contingency Plan

ProjectManager has the project planning and risk management tools you need to make a reliable contingency plan that can quickly be executed in a dire situation.

Use Task Lists to Outline the Elements

Use our task list feature to outline all the elements of a contingency plan. Since a contingency plan likely wouldn’t have any hard deadlines at first, this is a good way to list all the necessary tasks and resources. You can add comments and files to each task, so everyone will know what to do when the time comes.

Task list in ProjectManager

Reference Dashboards to Monitor the Contingency Plan

Our dashboard gives you a bird’s eye view of all of the critical project metrics. It displays live data so you’re getting a real-time look at how your project is progressing. This live information can help you spot issues and resolve them to make sure that your contingency plan is a success. Which, given that it’s your plan B, is tantamount.

ProjectManager’s dashboard view, which shows six key metrics on a project

If you’re planning a project, include a contingency plan, and if you’re working on a contingency plan then have the right tools to get it done right. ProjectManager is online project management software that helps you create a shareable contingency plan, and then, if you need to, execute it, track its progress and make certain to resolve whatever problems it’s addressing. You can do this all in real time! What are you waiting for? Check out ProjectManager with this free 30-day trial today!

Click here to browse ProjectManager's free templates

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Develop your contingency plan: Who is your next-in-command? | Guide and template

“Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson

If you don’t have a contingency plan in case one of your executives or key people takes a leave of absence as a result of COVID-19, it’s time to build one now. 

In a climate where teams are already lean (and even leaner if they’ve had layoffs), where people are uncertain about the future, and where the risk of absences is higher as employees are impacted by the pandemic, contingency planning is critical. If left unaddressed, one leave of absence may result in a leadership vacuum that could have serious consequences on the business.  

This guide and template will help you:

  • Develop a contingency plan for the top three levels of your organization as well as for critical roles.
  • Identify interim or acting managers as needed.
  • Understand the steps to transfer knowledge to prevent unnecessary business disruption.

Access the guide & template

What do you have to lose if you do not have a contingency plan? 

Simply put, everything. Here are two examples from recent discussions with high-growth tech company leaders. 

Details have been removed and names have been changed to protect identities.

Example 1: Lead executive leaves 

Jen’s core product is an enterprise B2B application in a hard-hit industry. They are already running lean due to cuts at the beginning of the year and some unexpected turnover. Despite all the cuts and turnover, the company still does not have a back-up for the absence of any team member, even at the executive level. There is an assumption that each executive could step in for another.

Jen recognizes that if the VP or Director level was impacted by COVID-19 or a sudden departure, the company’s already lean teams would likely face further stress, which could lead to leaves related to mental health, as well as possible turnover, morale issues, impacts on its brand, and customer loss. 

Example 2: Key employee leaves 

I got a note from Sam saying his payroll person left. Any time a single point of contact leaves and you don’t have a business contingency plan, you are in trouble. And the last thing you need when people are worried about their jobs is to have their payroll not come through.  

Luckily, in this situation, the company had been using an outside payroll provider in the past and it was able to quickly switch back. However, I have seen other situations where HR or even the CEO took on this critical task. In these cases, it lead to the payroll arriving late or former employees being paid.

With no back-up plan, at best it will frustrate employees and at worst, have disastrous results.

Bottom line

Your business must have a contingency plan for the absence of all executives and key employees (such as single point of contacts).

Further resources: 

  • Checklist: Senior management steps to handle COVID-19
  • Managing the Transition (Odgers Berndstone)
  • RACI explained: It’s simple, yet powerful (YouTube) 

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How To Develop A Contingency Plan For Staff Shortages

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Staffing contingency plans are top of mind for manufacturers today due to the tight labor market and a skills shortage that's only expected to get worse. In fact, the U.S. Manufacturing skills gap could leave as many as 2.1 million jobs unfilled by 2030, nearly 78 million manufacturing employees are expected to retire in the United States over the next 10 years, and according to the National Manufacturing Institute, 82% of manufacturing CEO's say the skills gap will affect their ability to service customers. 

On top of an industry already struggling with labor challenges, the shift in the labor market from the COVID-19 pandemic that started in March of 2020 and continues in 2022 with the latest variant, Omicron, has left companies scrambling to hire and retain talent. As a result, it's more important than ever, for companies to have contingency plans for staffing shortages, and may even get worse with pending vaccine mandates. 

Manufacturers today are finding themselves in situations where traditional staffing models are not cutting it and they're being forced to think outside of the box when it comes to talent. Businesses today need strategic contingency plans to solve personnel shortages when local staffing agencies aren't able to support their evolving needs and contingency plans for supply chain disruptions that continue to impact their operations . 

For businesses that have their own production backlogs or those looking to solve their supplier backlogs impacting their operations, companies like MADI that specialize in contingency planning and provide contingency staff  solutions specifically for staff shortages. Traditionally, this service has been used during labor disputes -- for when a union workforce goes on strike or is involved in a lockout at their facility -- but as it turns out, this method for sourcing workers nationwide and quickly mobilizing experienced workforces across the country is a PERFECT solution for staff shortages and skills gaps .  

Why consider a staffing contingency plan for labor shortages?

Companies have traditionally relied upon regular local staffing agencies to fill in these staffing gaps, but these agencies are experiencing the same hiring challenges as the businesses they're servicing. A lack of available candidates often results in staffing agencies delivering unskilled and under-qualified candidates creating setbacks such as longer training periods, high turnover, and increased costs -- which is not a recipe for achieving operational stability and catching up on production backlogs. 

USA map

If you were to draw a circle around your plant with a 50-mile radius, how many EXPERIENCED manufacturing workers would there be? Of those, how many would be unemployed or employed and looking for a new job? Much less. The labor market is tight and there are more open jobs than there are people looking for them -and as a result it's creating a war for talent. When your Human Resources and Talent Acquisition teams are putting their hands up in the air because they don't know what else to do to source talent, it's time to reconsider how you're sourcing talent to match the changing labor market and gig economy. 

How To Develop A Contingency Plan For Staff Shortages & Skills Gaps 

The main components of a business continuity plan typically include a business impact analysis, recovery strategies, plan development, and testing/exercising. This same process can also be applied to workforce planning and contingency plan development for critical staff shortages. 

Business Impact Analysis (BIA)

A business impact analysis predicts the consequences of a disruption of a business function and process and gathers information needed to develop recovery strategies. In the case of staffing shortages, consider the impact of: 

  • Delayed sales
  • Increased expenses such as overtime, outsourcing, expediting costs, etc. 
  • Contractual penalties 
  • Customer loss 

You'll also want to consider timing, duration, operational and financial impacts. When would a worker shortage have the biggest impact on your business -- during your busy season or at the end of a particular month or quarter? This will help you determine when it's time to start considering implementing your staffing contingency plan. 

Recovery Strategies 

Recovery strategies include alternate means to restore business operations to a minimum acceptable level following disruptions such as machinery breaking down, utility outages, supply chain interruptions, and natural or man-made disasters. In the case of a worker shortage, however, this may include overtime for full-time employees and a mix of traditional staffing agencies or a contingency staffing service. 

In the current labor market companies are finding that temporary agencies are having the same trouble finding labor and they're supplying under-qualified workers which increases training time and causes high turnover and increased costs. When traditional staffing agencies aren't delivering the quantity or quality of temporary staffing you need and desire, then bringing in labor from outside the area with the help of a national contingency staffing provider may be required. 

Featured Podcast: Addressing Staffing Issues In A Post Pandemic World

What Is Contingency Staffing?

Contingency staffing refers to temporary workers who supplement a company's permanent workforce and usually work under a contract for a fixed period of time on a specific project. This is different from temporary workers who may show up for a few days or weeks. There is also contingency staffing that includes traveling workforces -- where the staffing agency temporarily relocates workers to a project site to help a company fill in large-scale staffing gaps, ramp up during peak seasons, or provide operational stability during times of crisis such as the ongoing pandemic.  

Contingency staffing companies are typically used when a company needs to fill open positions quickly. By sourcing their talent nationwide, these companies can respond more quickly, with more workers, and with a more skilled workforce than a traditional staffing agency can.

The pandemic has increased the demand for traveling contingency workforces, so response times have increased and can vary between job categories and industries. It's best to be proactive about reaching out to companies like MADI to find out what their deployment schedule looks like, what the timing would be if you needed their services, and to get on their deployment schedule in advance before your staffing need is more urgent. 

For example, turnaround time can vary depending upon skill sets and the number of personnel needed such as skilled CNC Machinists and Welders as opposed to Assembly workers or Machine Operators. Determine what might be a realistic ask for your business needs -- what if you need to add a shift of 100+ assembly workers to your operations or 50 Machine Operators. Download our free staff shortage contingency planner to prioritize your skilled trades and production roles and identify potential staffing gaps. 

Then speak with a contingency staffing vendor about your potential needs and the type of support they could provide to your organization if needed moving forward.  Some questions to ask and consider include: 

  • How quickly can a team be on-site after a request is made?
  • Who would onboard the temporary workforce? 
  • How many people can our management team actually intake and train at once? 
  • Would you need to ramp up the workforce over several weeks?
  • Will the temporary staff work on the same shift or across different shifts? 
  • What are the costs to mobilize a team to my facility or facilities? 

Contingency Plan Development 

If you're in a position where you're concerned that a staff shortage could have a severe impact on your business, then it's important to put together the right team and gain management approval. If a company has never used contingency/travel labor before it can be a hurdle to get the entire team on board; however, in today's changing labor climate companies must shift their mindset and talent strategies to overcome unpredictable labor shortages, increased customer demand, and skills gaps. 

Who Should Be Involved With The Contingency Planning Process? 

The main roles that are frequently involved with this type of planning and execution are Human Resources/Talent Acquisition, Operations as well as Executive Leadership such as the CEO, CFO, or COO. The roles can differ from organization to organization and can change with the size of the company. 

Small to medium size companies may include human resources, operations, and executives/owners of the business. For enterprise companies, regional and/or corporate human resources and operations may be involved as well as the key leadership from the facility that is in need of temporary staff.

As a rule of thumb, you'll want to include critical stakeholders that will be working directly with the temporary staff and overseeing the project. Everyone involved should be on the same page with regard to expectations, timelines, and project management to ensure overall success. 

Testing & Exercises 

A critical component of any staffing contingency plan is testing and exercises of the plan. If your organization is skeptical about using a contingency staffing vendor or concerned that the level of talent provided will be no different from what's being provided by local staffing agencies then the best thing to do is test the service by bringing in a small group of workers. 

Maybe you anticipate increased customer demand next year, but have a small need at a facility now -- test it and bring in a small group in now. Or maybe you have an urgent need for support at multiple sites -- you could and should start by deploying personnel to one site first to prove proof of concept.

By working with the service provider you'll learn how everything works from employee selection, and onboarding to project management and billing. If your potential need is 100 temporary workers, for example, start with a small group of 15 or 20 people, and if all is going well ramp up by adding groups of 20 until you reach your desired staffing level. 

Why Use Contingency Staff Over Traditional Staffing?

A key difference between a contingency staffing agency that relocates workers to your plant and a staffing agency providing temporary staff from the local market is the contingency planning expertise and project management. With executive management oversight and field supervision to coordinate logistics, onboarding, and ensure the workforce arrives as a group on time each day prior to their scheduled shift -- the efficiency, reliability, and productivity are unmatched. 

Another critical difference between traditional staffing agencies and contingency staffing agencies such as MADI  is the size of the labor pool. Sourcing candidates from across the entire United States opens up the available resource pool for access to larger groups of workers, more skilled candidates, and enables rapid deployment of workforces for urgent staffing situations.

Imagine being able to hire EXPERIENCED manufacturing workers from a national talent pool without the restriction of a 50-mile radius around your plant. Imagine being able to have 50, 100, or 200+ EXPERIENCED production and skilled trades workers on-site within two weeks, regardless of your location. This is much faster than the average time to fill skilled production worker positions these days,  which is 93 days, according to the 2018 Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute Skills Gap and Future of Work Study . 

Why Access Talent From A National Labor Pool

Local vs National Labor Pool

Rather than leaving production lines down or critical positions unfilled such as CNC Machinists, Welders, and Maintenance Techs, more companies are turning to contingency staff because they're able to hire experienced workers that can step right into their operations, acclimate quickly, and ramp up production efficiently. 

Quickly Ramp Up Manufacturing Operations

Even Fortune 500 companies offering great pay and benefits are having trouble filling their factories with full-time employees these days. Add to that, a situation where there is an unexpected spike in demand, how can a company ramp up manufacturing? Finding hundreds of workers locally to add another shift to their operations is nearly impossible, never mind doing so quickly.  

This is where contingency plan development and a contingency staffing vendor to help become critical -- because it's a controlled mobilization, an efficient onboarding process, and continued hands-on project management throughout the project to ensure operational stability.  

Workforce Agility 

In today's rapidly changing business environment and talent market, it's more important than ever for businesses to remain agile and that goes well beyond technology delivery. We're in a new phase of workforce innovation right now and with increased competition, shrinking product life cycles, and evolving customer interests, so companies must be able to alter their direction and adjust quickly.

In today's labor market, forward-thinking companies are shifting their mindset on talent, considering different staffing strategies, preparing staff contingency plans, and deploying workforces to their facilities across the country in order to maintain their competitive advantage. 

Finding Skilled Welders From All Over The United States

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Traditional staffing methods are not enough for modern companies whose needs are constantly changing. In such unexpected circumstances as the COVID-19 pandemic, companies need alternative methods and strategies for sourcing labor to keep operations running. In today’s competitive market, they can’t afford their brand to be harmed by any backlogs.

Apart from such situations as a pandemic, contingency staffing can help your business during, for example, busy seasons, times of low unemployment, after-disaster time, or when unexpected customer orders come in. Basically, it can help you in any labor shortage or skills gap issue as it provides you with qualified temporary workers right away.

BIA stands for a business impact analysis, and it helps to determine what consequences a particular business function’s disruption may cause. Furthermore, it involves collecting all the data necessary for creating efficient recovery strategies. Such factors as, for instance, lost and delayed sales, contractual penalties, and customer losses.

Recovery strategies are the methods that should be used to restore your business operations to at least a minimum satisfactory level in critical situations.  They are crucial in labor shortages, natural or human-made disasters, utility outages, and many other difficult circumstances.

It may happen that a company is not convinced about the idea of using contingency staffing services. In such a case, it’s beneficial to test our services with a small group of personnel first.  Namely, you don’t have to request a huge number of temporary workers from the start. Instead, we can bring you just a small group and show it to you that they can work effectively.

One of our biggest advantages is that we have access to a national talent pool. Our workers don’t have any problems with traveling to any location within the United States, so we can easily find a workforce with any qualifications you need, usually within two weeks.

The present business environment is evolving very quickly, so it is more significant than ever before for companies to stay agile. With so many competitors on the market and with the constantly appearing innovations, it is essential to be able to adapt to changes.  Thanks to contingency staffing services, you will be able to adjust to any circumstances and avoid huge financial losses in the case of some unexpected difficulties.

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contingency plan for unplanned leave

contingency plan for unplanned leave


  • July 15, 2021
  • in Employee Relations

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We are frequently asked for advice and support re how to manage the impact of employee sickness and unplanned absence from work.

Prior to the pandemic, in a survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in February 2020, Australian businesses lose on average $303 per day due to costs associated with absenteeism. The Australian Human Resources Institute also estimate that employees take 8.8 unplanned days per year, costing the Australian economy over $500 million per annum.

contingency plan for unplanned leave

In addition to the financial costs, unplanned absences, significantly impact customer service, sales, staff management, workload allocation and workplace culture. If left unmanaged, unplanned absences can lead to higher levels of stress in the workplace, with other employees taking on extra workload and working longer hours. This can create a vicious cycle of poor health outcomes and indeed lead to more absenteeism.

How do you manage Absenteeism?

Identify the contributing factors

The first step is to identify what might be the contributing factors to the unplanned pattern of absence. To do this effectively, the employer will need to collect information from existing employee records such as; leave requests, medical and other supporting leave documentation, email notifications from employees and any file and diary notes you may have drafted.

Whilst injury, illness and attendance at medical appointments is often cited as the main reason for absence, it may be used to obscure the actual cause for the absence.  For example, it is not uncommon for staff to use the ‘cover’ of illness to facilitate; caring for children, elderly parents, or other members of the household.

Furthermore, burnout, stress, depression and declining mental health can all stem from an unhappy workplace or an unhappy employee. Overworked, underpaid, poor workplace culture, unsupportive management, a demanding team, too much change, not enough change, lack of career progression, lack of ambition, feeling out of depth or underappreciated – all of these experiences can contribute to feelings of overwhelm, underwhelm and declining motivation.

The pursuit of a new role, which can be a time consuming and demanding task, may also be managed using sick leave. It is both curious and yet commonplace that new employers seek to interview during business hours. This creates an issue for all parties.

Prepare to communicate directly with your employee

Once you have collected the information, rather than making assumptions re the cause of the absenteeism, engage your employee in a discussion. Face to face, in person communication, is the respectful, professional and appropriate way to manage these interactions.  The purpose of the conversation is to raise the pattern of the absence with the employee, in a supportive and constructive way.

The discussion needs to provide the employee with the opportunity to understand the impact of their absence on the workplace and the broader team. The intention is to work collaboratively with you, the boss / manager, to develop ideas that will reduce the unplanned absences. These discussions may or may not be completely truthful.  This is not necessarily of consequence. The objective of the dialogue, is to open the lines of communication, demonstrate that the absences have been noted, contextualise the effect on the business, provide the employee with an opportunity to share their perspective and raise any issues that may contribute to the behaviour. Importantly, the goal is to collectively develop a pathway to a solution or resolution.

There are a range of options that may assist the process. Encouraging the employee to seek support through an Employee Assistance Program or other relevant health professional or organisation, is advisable in an instance where emotional distress or mental health concerns are raised.  Where the underlying issue is related to poor performance, issues around workplace culture, harassment, bullying, lack of leadership, career stagnation or the like – the communication will need to be escalated and a plan to address initiated immediately – if the issue stands any chance of being ameliorated.  Often, the solution may be as straight forward as temporarily altering hours of work or introducing a flexible working hours arrangement.

If the concern is significant or serious and has the potential to adversely impact the successful meeting of imperative business objectives and more importantly, the safety of staff – further advice must be sought immediately, via legal or workplace relations partners.

Absenteeism is a human centred and therefore complex matter. Often several strategies may need to be considered and implemented. HR Central are equipped with the right knowledge, expertise and experience to work with you, providing the right advice and recommending effective strategies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Can I ask my employees to provide evidence of their absence from work due to sick or personal leave, even if only one day off work?

A. The Fair Work Act 2009 allows for employers to ask for evidence for as little as one day or less. If employees do not provide the requisite documentation on request, they may not be entitled to be paid the leave. Where individual employees show repetitive patterns of taking sick and personal leave around public holidays and weekends, this may be a useful strategy to manage the issue, purely via the implied communication that it has been noted.

Q. Can I terminate an employee who never shows up for work and does not notify me?

A. Possibly. If the employee has been off work without reasonable explanation for an unreasonable period, they may be considered to have abandoned their employment. But an employer must follow certain processes before this can be confirmed.

Q. An employee has been off work for 4 weeks now and has used up their entire sick/personal leave. Can I terminate them?

A. No. Under the Fair Work Act 2009, it is unlawful to dismiss an employee because of temporary absence from duty due to illness or injury. If they have been off work less than 3 months this is considered temporary.

Webinar: Managing Unplanned Absences

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Melissa Hay is part of the HR Specialist Team at HR Central. With over 25 years of experience working in Human Resources across the not for profit sector, aged and disability services, manufacturing, telecommunications, and state and local government including WorkSafe Victoria.

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Contingency Plan Template

Contingency Plan Template

What is a Contingency Plan?

A contingency plan helps establish initiatives, projects and procedures that are designed to be implemented in response to an unplanned event. It is important to have a contingency plan prepared to mitigate risks and enable businesses of all sizes to respond quickly and effectively to unplanned incidents. Contingency plans are typically tailored to a specific organization’s needs, and often include steps to protect personnel, operations, and assets.

What's included in this Contingency Plan template?

  • 3 focus areas
  • 6 objectives

Each focus area has its own objectives, projects, and KPIs to ensure that the strategy is comprehensive and effective.

Who is the Contingency Plan template for?

This contingency plan template is designed to help organizations of all sizes and industries create a plan to respond to unplanned events and minimize their impact. It is suitable for any organization, from small businesses to large corporations. The template is comprehensive, yet straightforward and easy to use.

1. Define clear examples of your focus areas

A focus area is any area of operational risk that an organization wants to address. Examples of focus areas include disaster risk management, cybersecurity, and business continuity. It is important to identify the focus areas that are most relevant to your organization and are most likely to be affected by an unplanned event.

2. Think about the objectives that could fall under that focus area

Objectives are the goals that an organization wants to achieve in the given focus area. Examples of objectives include establishing a comprehensive risk management system, establishing a contingency plan, and improving cybersecurity.

3. Set measurable targets (KPIs) to tackle the objective

KPIs, or key performance indicators, are measurable targets that an organization sets in order to track progress towards an objective. An example of a KPI for a disaster risk management objective could be to increase the number of users with cyber security training. KPIs should be measurable and specific.

4. Implement related projects to achieve the KPIs

Projects, or actions, are the steps an organization takes to achieve its objectives. In the context of a contingency plan, examples of projects could include developing a risk management strategy or implementing a cyber security policy. Projects should be specific, concise, and achievable.

5. Utilize Cascade Strategy Execution Platform to see faster results from your strategy

Cascade is a strategy execution platform that enables organizations to create, measure, and manage their strategic plans. With Cascade, you can easily track progress towards your objectives, measure the impact of your actions, and collaborate with your team to ensure successful execution of your strategy.

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What is a contingency plan? A guide to contingency planning

Julia Martins contributor headshot

A business contingency plan is a backup strategy for your team or organization. It lays out how you’ll respond if unforeseen events knock your plans off track—like how you’ll pivot if you lose a key client, or what you’ll do if your software service goes down for more than three hours. Get step-by-step instructions to create an effective contingency plan, so if the unexpected happens, your team can spring into action and get things back on track.

No one wants Plan A to fail—but having a strong plan B in place is the best way to be prepared for any situation. With a solid backup plan, you can effectively respond to unforeseen events effectively and get back on track as quickly as possible. 

A contingency plan is a proactive strategy to help you address negative developments and ensure business continuity. In this article, learn how to create a contingency plan for unexpected events and build recovery strategies to ensure your business remains healthy.

What is contingency planning?

What is a contingency plan .

A contingency plan is a strategy for how your organization will respond to important or business-critical events that knock your original plans off track. Executed correctly, a business contingency plan can mitigate risk and help you get back to business as usual—as quickly as possible. 

You might be familiar with contingency plans to respond to natural disasters—businesses and governments typically create contingency plans for disaster recovery after floods, earthquakes, or tornadoes. 

But contingency plans are just as important for business risks. For example, you might create a contingency plan outlining what you will do if your primary competitors merge or how you’ll pivot if you lose a key client. You could even create a contingency plan for smaller occurrences that would have a big impact—like your software service going down for more than three hours.

Contingency planning vs risk management

Project risk management is the process of identifying, monitoring, and addressing project-level risks. Apply project risk management at the beginning of the project planning process to prepare for any risks that might come up. To do so, create a risk register to identify and monitor potential project risks. If a risk does happen, you can use your risk register to proactively target that risk and resolve it as quickly as possible. 

A contingency plan is similar to a project risk management plan or a crisis management plan because it also helps you identify and resolve risks. However, a business contingency plan should cover risks that span multiple projects or even risks that could affect multiple departments. To create a contingency plan, identify and prepare for large, business-level risks.

Contingency planning vs crisis management

Contingency planning is a proactive approach that prepares organizations for potential emergencies by implementing pre-planned risk mitigation strategies. It involves identifying threats and crafting strategies in advance. 

Crisis management , on the other hand, is reactive, focusing on immediate response and damage control when a crisis occurs. While contingency planning sets the stage for effective handling of emergencies, crisis management involves real-time decision-making and project management during an actual crisis. Both are important for organizations and businesses to maintain their stability and resilience.

Contingency plan examples

There are a variety of reasons you’d want to set up a contingency plan. Rather than building one contingency plan, you should build one plan for each type of large-scale risk or disaster that might strike. 

Business contingency plan

A business contingency plan is a specialized strategy that organizations develop to respond to particular, unforeseen events that threaten to disrupt regular operations. It's kind of like a business continuity plan, but there's one key difference. 

While business continuity plans aim to ensure the uninterrupted operation of the entire business during a crisis, a business contingency plan zeroes in on procedures and solutions for specific critical incidents, such as data breaches, supply chain interruptions, or key staff unavailability. 

A business contingency plan could include:

Strategies to ensure minimal operational disruption during crises, such as unexpected market shifts, regulatory compliance changes, or severe staff shortages.

Partnerships with external agencies that can provide support in scenarios like environmental hazards or public health emergencies.

A comprehensive communication strategy with internal and external stakeholders to provide clear, timely information flow during crises like brand reputation threats or legal challenges.

Environmental contingency plan

While severe earthquakes aren’t particularly common, being unprepared when “the big one” strikes could prove to be catastrophic. This is why governments and businesses in regions prone to earthquakes create preparedness initiatives and contingency plans.

A government contingency plan for an earthquake could include things like: 

The names and information of the people designated to handle certain tasks in advance to ensure the emergency response is quick and concise

Ways to educate the public on how to respond when an earthquake hits

A timeline for emergency responders.

Technology contingency plan

If your business is particularly data-heavy, for example, ensuring the safety and cybersecurity of your information systems is critical. Whether a power surge damages your servers or a hacker attempts to infiltrate your network, you’ll want to have an emergency response in place.

A business’s contingency plan for a data breach could involve: 

Steps to take and key team members to notify in order to get data adequately secured once more

The names and information of stakeholders to contact to discuss the impact of the data breach and the plan to protect their investment

A timeline to document what is being done to address the breach and what will need to be done to prevent data breaches in the future

Supply chain contingency plan

Businesses that are integral parts of the supply chain, such as manufacturing entities, retail companies, and logistics providers, need an effective supply chain contingency plan to continue functioning smoothly under unforeseen circumstances.

These plans hedge against supply chain disruptions caused by events like natural disasters or technological outages and help organizations reduce downtime and ensure real-time operational capabilities. 

A supply chain contingency plan could include:

Secure critical data and systems while promptly notifying key team members, such as IT staff and management, for immediate action.

A predetermined list of essential stakeholders, including suppliers, customers, investors, and authorities, should be contacted to inform them about the disruption and steps being taken.

A detailed timeline is essential for documenting the immediate response and outlining long-term strategies to prevent future disruptions in the supply chain.

Pandemic contingency plan

In the face of a global health crisis, a pandemic contingency plan is vital for organizations in healthcare, retail, and manufacturing. This plan focuses on mitigation strategies to minimize operational disruptions and ensure the safety of employees while maintaining business continuity. 

A pandemic response plan could include:

A comprehensive health and safety protocol for employees, which integrates regular health screenings, detailed risk analysis, and emergency medical support as key components.

Flexible work arrangements and protocols for remote operations and digital communication.

A list of key personnel and communication channels for immediate response and coordination.

Regularly reviewing and adapting the pandemic contingency plan as part of an ongoing disaster recovery plan to address evolving challenges and lessons learned.

How to create a contingency plan

You can create a contingency plan at various levels of your organization. For example, if you're a team lead, you could create a contingency plan for your team or department. Alternatively, company executives should create business contingency plans for situations that could impact the entire organization. 

As you create your contingency plan, make sure you evaluate the likelihood and severity of each risk. Then, once you’ve created your plan—or plans—get it approved by your manager or department head. That way, if a negative event does occur, your team can leap to action and quickly resolve the risk without having to wait for approvals.

1. Make a list of risks

Before you can resolve risks, you first need to identify them. Start by making a list of any and all risks that might impact your company. Remember: there are different levels of contingency planning—you could be planning at the business, department, or program level. Make sure your contingency plans are aligned with the scope and magnitude of the risks you’re responsible for addressing. 

A contingency plan is a large-scale effort, so hold a brainstorming session with relevant stakeholders to identify and discuss potential risks. If you aren’t sure who should be included in your brainstorming session, create a stakeholder analysis map to identify who should be involved.

2. Weigh risks based on severity and likelihood

You don’t need to create a contingency plan for every risk you lay out. Once you outline risks and potential threats, work with your stakeholders to identify the potential impact of each risk. 

Evaluate each risk based on two metrics: the severity of the impact if the risk were to happen and the likelihood of the risk occurring. During the risk assessment phase, assign each risk a severity and likelihood—we recommend using high, medium, and low. 

3. Identify important risks

Once you’ve assigned severity and likelihood to each risk, it’s up to you and your stakeholders to decide which risks are most important to address. For example, you should definitely create a contingency plan for a risk that’s high likelihood and high severity, whereas you probably don’t need to create a contingency plan for a risk that’s low likelihood and low severity. 

You and your stakeholders should decide where to draw the line.

4. Conduct a business impact analysis

A business impact analysis (BIA) is a deep dive into your operations to identify exactly which systems keep your operations ticking. A BIA will help you predict what impact a specific risk could have on your business and, in turn, the response you and your team should take if that risk were to occur. 

Understanding the severity and likelihood of each risk will help you determine exactly how you will need to proceed to minimize the impact of the threat to your business. 

For example, what are you going to do about risks that have low severity but high likelihood? What about risks that are high in severity, but relatively low in likelihood? 

Determining exactly what makes your business tick will help you create a contingency plan for every risk, no matter the likelihood or severity.  

[inline illustration] Business impact analysis for a contingency plan (example)

5. Create contingency plans for the biggest risks

Create a contingency plan for each risk you’ve identified as important. As part of that contingency plan, describe the risk and brainstorm what your team will do if the risk comes to pass. Each plan should include all of the steps you need to take to return to business as usual.

Your contingency plan should include information about:

The triggers that will set this plan into motion

The immediate response

Who should be involved and informed?

Key responsibilities, including a RACI chart if necessary

The timeline of your response (i.e. immediate things to do vs. longer-term things to do)

[inline illustration] 5 steps to include in your contingency plan (infographic)

For example, let’s say you’ve identified a potential staff shortage as a likely and severe risk. This would significantly impact normal operations, so you want to create a contingency plan to prepare for it. Each person on your team has a very particular skill set, and it would be difficult to manage team responsibilities if more than one person left at the same time. Your contingency plan might include who can cover certain projects or processes while you hire a backfill, or how to improve team documentation to prevent siloed skillsets. 

6. Get approval for contingency plans

Make sure relevant company leaders know about the plan and agree with your course of action. This is especially relevant if you’re creating team- or department-level plans. By creating a contingency plan, you’re empowering your team to respond quickly to a risk, but you want to make sure that course of action is the right one. Plus, pre-approval will allow you to set the plan in motion with confidence—knowing you’re on the right track—and without having to ask for approvals beforehand.

7. Share your contingency plans

Once you’ve created your contingency plans, share them with the right people. Make sure everyone knows what you’ll do, so if and when the time comes, you can act as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Keep your contingency plans in a central source of truth so everyone can easily access them if necessary.

Creating a project in a work management platform is a great way of distributing the plan and ensuring everyone has a step-by-step guide for how to enact it.

8. Monitor contingency plans

Review your contingency plan frequently to make sure it’s still accurate. Take into account new risks or new opportunities, like new hires or a changing business landscape. If a new executive leader joins the team, make sure to surface the contingency plan for their review as well. 

9. Create new contingency plans (if necessary)

It’s great if you’ve created contingency plans for all the risks you found, but make sure you’re constantly monitoring for new risks. If you discover a new risk, and it has a high enough severity or likelihood, create a new contingency plan for that risk. Likewise, you may look back on your plans and realize that some of the scenarios you once worried about aren’t likely to happen or, if they do, they won’t impact your team as much.

Common contingency planning pitfalls—and how to avoid them

A contingency plan is a powerful tool to help you get back to normal business functions quickly. To ensure your contingency planning process is as smooth as possible, watch out for common pitfalls, like: 

Lack of buy-in

It takes a lot of work to create a contingency plan, so before you get started, ensure you have support from executive stakeholders. As you create your plan, continuously check in with your sponsors to ensure you’ve addressed key risks and that your action plan is solid. By doing so, you can ensure your stakeholders see your contingency plan as something they can get behind.

Bias against “Plan B” thinking

Some company cultures don’t like to think of Plan B—they like to throw everything they have at Plan A and hope it works. But thinking this way can actually expose your team to more risks than if you proactively create a Plan B.

Think of it like checking the weather before going sailing so you don’t accidentally get caught in a storm. Nine times out of ten, a clear sunny day won’t suddenly turn stormy, but it’s always better to be prepared. Creating a contingency plan can help you ensure that, if a negative event does occur, your company will be ready to face it and bounce back as quickly as possible. 

One-and-done contingency plans

It takes a lot of work to put a contingency plan together. Sometimes when you’ve finished, it can be tempting to consider it a job well done and forget about it. But make sure you schedule regular reminders (maybe once or twice a year) to review and update your contingency plan if necessary. If new risks pop up, or if your business operations change, updating your contingency plan can ensure you have the best response to negative events.  

[inline illustration] The easiest ways to prevent contingency plan pitfalls (infographic)

You’ve created a contingency plan—now what?

A contingency plan can be a lot of work to create, but if you ever need to use it, you’ll be glad you made one. In addition to creating a strong contingency plan, make sure you keep your plan up-to-date.

Being proactive can help you mitigate risks before they happen—so make sure to communicate your contingency plan to the team members who will be responsible for carrying them out if a risk does happen. Don’t leave your contingency plan in a document to collect dust—after creating it, you should use it if need be!

Once you’ve created the plan, make sure you store it in a central location that everyone can access, like a work management platform . If it does come time to use one of your contingency plans, storing them in a centrally accessible location can help your team quickly turn plans into action.

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4 Steps to Managing Unplanned Work

No matter how much you plan, there’s always going to be some level of uncertainty. As Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said, “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” And for agile product teams, this sentiment couldn’t ring more true. While the act of planning itself is important, the resulting plans are destined to change.

One type of change tends to be the most frustrating of all for product teams: unplanned work popping up mid-sprint. Perhaps you know the feeling — your teams are cranking away on the user stories they’ve committed to when suddenly an executive storms in demanding a new functionality…now. Or, an urgent customer request comes out of the left field. Or, an outage threatens to derail the delivery of some important features. What do you do?

We discussed this exact predicament in-depth during our recent webinar, Setting Priorities: How to Balance Planned vs. Unplanned Work .

The Trouble with Unplanned Work

Unplanned work could refer to anything from support escalations to emergency outages, feature requests coming in sideways, or stakeholder demands. This type of work can present several challenges to product managers and their cross-functional teams.

  • Unexpected projects can impact the team’s ability to deliver on the roadmap .
  • It can be difficult to communicate the impact of unplanned work to stakeholders.
  • In some cases, unplanned work can lead to unsustainable work practices and unhealthy culture.
  • There are only so many things that can fit in a sprint or iteration. If something new comes in, something must go out.

Download The Product Strategy Playbook ➜

1. Assess and Prioritize

As Teresa Torres points out, before you figure out how you’re getting the work done, it’s wise to ask yourself why. Otherwise, you risk spending too much time fighting fires. “Regardless of how you handle it, it’s really important that before you take on new work, you ask what metrics you’re driving,” she explains. Looking at the metrics involved makes it easier to see the importance of the new work and determine the best route forward.

In many situations, you can easily apply one of the commonly used product roadmap prioritization frameworks to prioritize unplanned work. For example, weighted scoring or a value vs. complexity matrix. These frameworks can help guide discussions with stakeholders and the rest of your team regarding whether unplanned work is urgent or not. The caveat, however, is that these frameworks are only a starting point. At the end of the day, you need to tap into your product manager intuition when it comes time to make decisions about how to proceed.

2. Tactics for Tackling Unplanned Work

After you’ve assessed the importance of new work, you can decide how to actually get it done. There are a handful of different ways to handle unplanned, or as our panelists called it, reactive, work.

  • Squeeze it into the current sprint.
  • Throw it into the backlog.
  • Carry it into the next sprint.
  • One item in, one item out.
  • Tackle it in a pre-planned buffer
  • Establish a dedicated team for reactive work.

We polled our webinar attendees on how they typically manage reactive work. 44% told us they take the “squeeze it in” approach. Meanwhile, 46% of participants said they put reactive work into the backlog or carry it to the next sprint.

Download the Backlog Refinement: How to Prioritize What Matters Book➜

3. Communicating about Unplanned Work

One of the challenges unplanned work presents for product teams is the communication aspect. How do you communicate the impact of unplanned work on the execution of planned work? And how can you manage stakeholder expectations when your plan is constantly in flux? Frequent conversations about change are critical.

You don’t necessarily need to prepare lengthy, formal presentations every time something changes. A weekly meeting with leadership to discuss progress, changes, and new findings may be all it takes to keep everyone on the same page. And if you can’t get everyone in the same room at the same time for that, a weekly email can be a good stand-in for a meeting. Our panelists agreed that your specific communication tactic is not as important as the goal: constant communication with stakeholders. So use whichever communication channels suit your team best.

4. Mitigating the Problem

As we’ve already mentioned, there is no way to completely eliminate unplanned work. But, there are a few things we can do to limit surprises and disruptions to those which are truly necessary.

Support Tickets and Escalations

As our panelists explained, you can often eliminate a decent amount of reactive work by proactively providing resources to support. If you’re a gatekeeper for information, chances are you’ll spend a lot of time fielding support tickets and answering questions. If you can provide others with the information they need, you can reduce this type of reactive work. Spend time training support, developing FAQs, and producing documentation, and you eliminate at least some of this work.

Rapidly Shifting Business Priorities

When businesses and executive stakeholders can’t agree on a clear set of measurable business goals, chaos may ensue. Without alignment on goals, desired outcomes, and a unified product vision, it’s incredibly difficult to focus on anything. Especially when you’re forced to field sideways feature requests and cope with priorities that shift overnight. If you don’t have alignment on these key strategic building blocks, getting alignment on them should be your first priority.

When you have a narrow focus, clear goals, and alignment from the top, you can reduce the number of left-field ideas and worry less about dreaded HiPPOs .

So there you have it, an overview of a few steps you can take to defeat the chaos that often results from unplanned work popping up mid-sprint. For more insight and tips from our expert panel, watch the full discussion in Setting Priorities: How to Balance Planned vs. Unplanned Work .

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Planning for unplanned absences

August 20, 2015

Ah, emergency sub plans! A beginning-of-the-year requirement that makes most teachers want to call in sick. Well, not really because that would require using the emergency sub plans that you worked so hard to put together. Seriously, though, planning for unplanned absences (creating emergency sub plans) is not easy! You don't know when you will be out, so you don't know what the students will be able to do when that time comes. You may not even know what kind of a schedule your students will be on that day! You need to plan something that students can do NOW--at the time of the planning--for all classes, for the maximum amount of time that you could possibly see the students, for any non-target-language-speaking, technologically-challenged, classroom-management-failing substitute that might happen to get called in on that day. You have to plan for worst case scenario!

An easy solution is to leave some articles in English about a cultural topic and have students read and respond to them.

Please don't.

There are tons of options out there that require no/almost no prep work on your part and that will allow your students to spend the entire period being flooded with comprehensible input. Don't waste class time by filling it with English when you can fill it with the target language! If you are planning for worst-case scenario (a sub with no management skills in your most challenging class), you'll want to stick to input (reading, in this case) instead of output, although many teachers leave sub plans that include some opportunity for structured output.

Click here to read an old post that gives my Top Five tips for having successful sub days . Most important to me is leaving good instructions for the substitute. In the first few weeks of school, I make sure that my Sub Binder is complete and up-to-date (you will want to wait for shuffling to end so that you can leave accurate class rosters, student information, and seating charts). It is helpful to include small photos of all students in the class for substitutes so that they can better identify awesome and not-so-awesome students both during class and when they write up their notes. Our school used Zangle, and Zangle stores the most recent school photo of every student so that you can print out photos on the seating chart that you can set up within Zangle. If your grading program doesn't have that ability, you can use the photos that you took on the first day of school to help you learn student names more quickly . Also in my Sub Binder, I include labeled photos of anything in my classroom that the sub might need so that I don't have to rely on my directionally-challenged explanations ("it's in the top-left drawer behind the tab labeled "rosters") for the teacher to find whatever it is that they need. I leave general information about class procedures and policies ( click here to see an example of the general info sheet ). And of course it includes any important student info (medical conditions, for example), emergency procedures, and school positive/negative discipline policies and forms. My sub binder stays on a shelf right by my desk so that it is easy to find.

contingency plan for unplanned leave

My emergency plans must be submitted to the Admin Assistant at the school so that she is able to access them and print them out for a substitute in the event of a real emergency that leaves me unable to get together any plans. In the packet that I send to her, I include a labeled photo of my sub binder sitting on the shelves by my desk so that the sub can find it. I include instructions for the emergency sub plans and additional time-filler activities, and I include worksheets for the students. That way, I don't even need to have an emergency box of photocopies and supplies taking up space in my room--the admin can print out anything the morning of my emergency absence. (The image that you see here is before I realized that I could just leave the file for the Admin, so I still had my box of emergency plan worksheets.)

So I still haven't answered the BIG question, which is, "What plans DO you leave???" Here are a bunch of examples:

  • Translate a story line by line, write a new version of the story, illustrate the story. Example here.
  • Translate a story, write a new version, illustrate. Example here.
  • Read a storyboard, answer comprehension questions, rewrite the story, illustrate the storyboard. Examples linked here (Bundles 1-6) .
  • Read a story with some words missing, fill in the missing words, answer questions about the story. Example here .
  • Read several short stories, illustrate each one, translate two, expand one. Example here.
  • Read several short stories, translate all, illustrate all, expand one. Example here.

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