Absence management software streamlines the processes of requesting and approving time off, sick leaves and other types of absences. Also known as time-off management or leave management software, it helps managers review employee availability in a team calendar, automate leave balance calculations and use analytics to identify absence trends, notice absenteeism and burnout cases.
Modern absence management software is either standalone products or modules of HR suites – complex solutions for HR, payroll, performance management and more. If you are looking for a robust solution for absence management that offers more features and puts the main focus on managing leaves, then standalone software will be the choice for you.
What is Absence Management Software?
Absence management software streamlines the process of allowing employees to take time off work. Also known as leave management software or time-off management software, absence management solutions help managers and human resources departments handle time off requests for vacation, sick time, or other circumstances. Data from absence management software helps companies understand when employees will be out of the office, how much time off each employee has used, and whether internal policies are being followed. For employees, these systems simplify the process of managing their time-off balances and getting time off approved. Absence management software products are sold either as a standalone solution or as an integrated module of a larger HR software suite.
What Types of Absence Management Software Exist?
Generally, absence management software products are either part of a larger HR suite or are sold as a standalone solution.
HR suite module
Modular HR suites may include a module for managing employee absence among their other modules, such as core HR, payroll, or performance management.
Point solutions are specialized solutions that specifically focus on absence management. Standalone absence management solutions tend to have more robust feature sets since their main focus is on managing employee leaves. These products often integrate with other software.
What are the Common Features of Absence Management Software?
The following are some core features within absence management software:
Employee self-service portal: Individual employees can manage their absences using self-service portals built into absence management software. Self-service systems enable employees to request different types of days off, such as sick or vacation days. They can then monitor the status of the request and access other information like how many days off they have remaining.
Manager dashboard: For streamlining management of employee time off, most absence management solutions provide an administrative dashboard that managers can use to track absences across a team or an entire organization. Managers can use a centralized calendar to monitor which days employees are taking off and approve or deny requests. Analytics reports ensure managers have the information they need to maintain appropriate staffing levels.
Custom leave policies: Every organization has a different leave policy. Absence management solutions enable administrators to customize the software based on their organization’s unique rules, such as how many vacation days each employee is entitled to. Administrators can adjust those parameters based on different factors, such as job title or an employee’s region. Being able to customize these policies helps ensure employees and managers adhere to internal rules as well as maintain compliance with local or regional regulations. Many solutions also can handle special absence circumstances, such as a longer-term absence under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Flexible approval workflow: Requests for time off may need to be routed through multiple managers. Absence management products with custom workflows enable administrators to designate which managers need to approve leave requests. That workflow can change depending on the department or employee.
Employee directory: Some absence management products enable administrators to create employee profiles with detailed information about each team member, such as position title, department, office location, and manager. This data can help organizations customize their absence policies using a variety of factors. Cloud storage capabilities in some products also enable administrators to store digital records for each employee.
Reports: Customized reporting tools give managers insights into how their employees are using the organization’s leave policies. Reports that show how many vacation or sick days each employee has used or how many days off employees have not used can help managers identify organizational trends or craft future policies. These reports can typically be exported so that they can be shared.
Alerts: Various kinds of automated notifications can help remind employees or managers about different events related to absences. For example, administrators can set up the system to send a manager a notification when an employee requests an unplanned absence, which can help the team adjust in that employee’s absence. Automated email alerts enable employees to stay informed about the status of their vacation requests or their leave balances.
Integrations: Most absence management systems can integrate with other software tools. Calendar integrations help increase the visibility of team member absences so that managers are more likely to remember who will be absent on certain days. Many solutions provide an ability for notifications to be sent through different channels, such as email or business instant messaging software. Some products also integrate with core HR software to streamline sharing of data about each employee.
Mobile app: Some solutions include a mobile app that employees can use to request time off or check their eligibility for time off, based on how many days they have already used.
What are the Benefits of Absence Management Software?
Streamlines recordkeeping: Manually tracking employee absences can take up a lot of time and resources that HR teams and managers could better spend elsewhere. Perhaps the biggest benefit of absence management software is automating those processes so that employee requests, leave balances, and planned time off are all handled in the software. Absence management solutions also store accurate records of employee leaves, improving the accessibility of that information.
Improves communication: Both managers and employees must know when team members are planning to be out of the office. The reporting functions and dashboards in absence management solutions give everyone in the organization a real-time view of who will be taking time off and when they will be out. Having this information makes it easier for managers to plan and make workforce adjustments so that projects can still be completed on time.
Makes time off more accessible: Individual contributors want to feel like their company is supporting their ability to do their best work, and part of that is allowing them to take time for personal wellness, whether that is to recharge or recover from an illness. For employees to take leaves, the systems that allow for time off need to be accessible and easy to use. Employees won’t want to navigate a byzantine series of forms just to take a vacation. Having a streamlined absence management system shows that an organization wants to make time off accessible for employees and support employee wellness, which is something that many workers will appreciate.
Helps maintain compliance: As organizations grow and add different business units or departments, it can be increasingly challenging to ensure that people across the organization are adhering to internal policies as well as external regulations. From a time-off standpoint, that means maintaining compliance with the leave policies and allowances that each employee is eligible for, depending on their specific role and geographic location. It also means ensuring the company complies with any applicable laws or regulations related to employee leaves of absence. The customizability of absence management solutions means organizations can set them up to their desired parameters and then automate much of the compliance checking, as administrators run periodic reports to ensure they are maintaining compliance with regulations such as FMLA or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Who Uses Absence Management Software?
Employees: Generally, absence management products include a way for employees to request time off, either through a time off form, a self-service portal, or an integration with another tool. Employees also use absence management software to manage their leave balances and view upcoming time off that they scheduled.
Managers: Approving time off requests often falls to managers. They use absence management solutions to view employee requests and approve or deny them. Reporting dashboards for managers give them an overview of upcoming employee absences as well as trends on topics like absenteeism or sick leaves.
HR specialists: The human resources team will likely have a role in setting leave policies within absence management software and communicating those policies to employees to ensure compliance and help employees understand the benefits that they have available to them. Human resources staff might use absence management software to track absences across the organization to look for broader trends and determine whether they need to make any policy updates.
What are the Alternatives to Absence Management Software?
Alternatives to absence management software can replace this type of software, either partially or completely:
Time & attendance software: Software for tracking employee attendance and hours worked typically includes functionality for managing employee leaves as well. Depending on the solution, the absence management features may not be as robust as in a product that is solely designed for managing leave requests and organizing employee absence data.
Software Related to Absence Management Software
Related solutions that can be used together with absence management software include:
Core HR software: These systems of record contain voluminous amounts of data on each employee, some of which can be valuable for maintaining employee absence records and determining which leave policies apply to different employees. Absence management systems may integrate with core HR software to facilitate the seamless transfer of this employee data between the systems.
Business instant messaging software: Integrations with business instant messaging software enables absence management products to send notifications about employee absences through a different channel.
Email software: Reminders about when employees will be absent or alerts about the status of an employee’s absence request can be sent through email.
Calendar software: For a broader view of which employees will be absent during certain timeframes, it can be helpful to look at a calendar view that shows upcoming planned absences for different employees. While some absence management products have built-in calendars for this purpose, many also integrate with third-party calendar software so that managers can quickly see who will be out of the office while they are checking the rest of their daily schedule.
Challenges with Absence Management Software
Absence management solutions can come with their own set of challenges.
Maintaining compliance: Some companies may have relatively straightforward leave policies that are easy to track. In recent years, many companies have moved to “unlimited” time off, meaning employees can take as much time off as they want while still meeting their work responsibilities, so there is less of a need to track absences for individual workers. In other cases, companies may give employees who have been at the company longer or those with certain job titles additional days off. Absence management solutions can typically be set up in a way that is responsive to a company’s specific requirements, but buyers need to investigate the flexibility of a system to ensure it will meet their needs. It is also important for organizations to verify whether any local, state, or national laws related to employee time off, such as FMLA or ADA, apply to their business, and to build those requirements into their absence management system. They should also consider its flexibility to deal with unexpected time off, such as for a workers’ compensation claim.
Integrations: Absence management software products can help automate the tracking of employee leaves, but adding another piece of software to a company’s existing stack can also build in extra complexity for employees. One thing that can help make absence management software become part of normal workflows is if the product has robust integrations with other products that employees use, like their messaging platform, calendar software, or core HR system. Absence data is also important for payroll purposes, so having a way to smoothly integrate the absence management system with the payroll system is important. Strong integrations with the company’s existing solutions are an essential component of an effective absence management system.
How to Buy Absence Management Software
Requirements Gathering (RFI/RFP) for Absence Management Software
There are many issues to consider when deciding to implement absence management software throughout a company or department. Each business and team has unique needs and will need to consider some or all of the following: business size and team member count, customization, reporting needs, internal policies.
Compare Absence Management Software Products
Create a long list
An initial list of potential absence management solutions should include any products that meet the company’s basic feature requirements. At this point, buyers should be aiming to get a sense of the features of potential solutions, such as request forms, manager dashboards, employee self-service portals, and reporting functionality. Buyers should also determine their must-have features, which for absence management solutions will likely include how customizable the product is and whether it will meet the specific needs of an organization.
Create a short list
After a long list has been created, it’s time to look at each product in more detail to determine if it sounds like it will meet the needs of the company’s employees and managers. This should include evaluating additional features of each product beyond the ones identified as essential to determine if that additional functionality would further automate the process of tracking employee absences.
When the time comes to contact sellers for a demo, buyers should have a sense of the features each product offers and be ready to evaluate how well those features work. One key aspect to consider during the demo of absence management software is usability since employees and managers will be more likely to use the system if the software interface is intuitive. Employees don’t want to navigate a complicated system just to get a day off, and managers don’t want a dashboard that doesn’t immediately tell them what they need to know in terms of who will be out on a given day. Demos can also help evaluate the kinds of reports that absence management software can generate since detailed reports often aren’t available on public-facing product websites. Reports should be customizable, relatively easy to generate, and must display a variety of metrics that managers can incorporate into their workforce planning processes.
Selection of Absence Management Software
Choose a selection team
When choosing an absence management solution, it is important to involve any relevant stakeholders who might be using the product to ensure choosing the product that will meet everyone’s needs. This likely includes managers, who would be responsible for analyzing employee absence trends. Human resources staff may also want to be involved since HR policies will be implemented using the absence management product. It might also include the company leadership if C-suite executives will be using absence data to make larger strategic decisions.
After narrowing in on a preferred product, it’s time to negotiate a pricing package. Buyers must consider the pricing model of the software, such as whether the seller charges a flat monthly fee or, more commonly, charges a fee based on how many user seats the buyer needs. Buyers should also note if they can negotiate to add more user seats to a package that would otherwise meet their needs. They might also consider negotiating a discount in exchange for signing a multi-year contract.
The final decision is likely to rest with managers, who are most directly responsible for handling employee leave of absence requests, as well as HR staff who must administer the company’s absence policies. All parties should consider whether the software is likely to streamline the process of requesting, managing, and tracking absences.
Open source absence management software is now a popular term for many organisations, as it allows them to manage their staff’s time and attendance reporting. This article takes a look at some of the best open source absences systems out there, featuring a list of eight great open source alternatives to the well-known big players.