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What is Self-Service Absence Application?

By: J.A.J Aaronson - Updated: 13 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Self Service Absence Application

Sick leave and other absence is a potentially huge headache for a Human Resources department. Indeed, absence application for employees becomes even more difficult for smaller organisations that do not have a dedicated HR team; while large companies can devote staff to administrative tasks like absence application, small firms lack the resources to do so.

Furthermore, absences have a proportionally larger effect on organisations of this size, with one day of absence causing more potential problems in a firm of ten employees than it would in a firm of 100 employees.

Self service absence application has been developed to mitigate the problems caused by absence. It has benefits for organisations of any size, and does not need to be expensive to implement.


Self service absence application was developed as an extension of the self service, or 'cafeteria' benefits system that is widespread in the United States. This system allows employees to access details of the benefits to which they are entitled, and to make choices from these offerings that are then automatically implemented.

Some British companies are taking this one step further; Price Waterhouse Coopers, for example, now allow employees to make choices regarding their company car options via a self service system, with their choices being passed directly to the car provider without any need for intervention from the HR department. Many companies have incorporated absence application into their self service systems.


A basic self service absence application system would be hosted on an intranet, with each employee being provided with a unique login ID. They could use this to access a personalised area of the intranet. Here they would be presented with details of their absence entitlements for a certain period; generally the year to date. Most frequently this is displayed as hours or days accrued to this point.

As such, employees have access to a concise overview of the absence entitlement, thus mitigating the possibility of confusion. From their personalised area, each employee can then apply to use up portions of their absence entitlement in advance. This is generally achieved through a basic calendar system. If there are certain days that employees must be in the office, applicants will be unable to apply for absence during these periods.

The employee's choices are then passed automatically to the payroll and HR systems, where the necessary adjustments will be made. Depending on the sophistication of the system this may or may not require some intervention from a member of management staff.

It should be remembered that not all absence can be planned. Employees get sick, and in most cases they will be unable to 'apply' for these sick days in advance. However, self service absence systems have uses for the administration of sick days as well; the personalised area of the system will give details of remaining statutory sick days, for example. Furthermore, employees may be able to enter explanations for their absence electronically.

This has advantages and disadvantages; on the plus side this can help those companies that are attempting to audit their absence. However, some employers anticipate that the lack of necessity for employees to speak to management on the phone may increase spurious sick leave.

Self service absence systems are not necessarily expensive; indeed, if you have an in-house database manager they may be able to develop the system themselves. If this is not the case, there is a growing number of companies specialising in this sort of work.

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