How Time off Work Impacts Your Construction Project

Category: Construction | By Paul Netscher | 3 minute read | Updated Mar 26, 2019
How Time Off Work Impacts Your Construction Project

Every company has rules for when a person can take time off work and often these are based on the country and state regulations. Some companies have more generous policies, and in some instances, union agreements may influence the time that employees can have off work.

How do I get time off work?

The time off could be annual vacations, statutory holidays, long service leave, sick leave, maternity leave, compassionate leave, etc. The time off could be paid, or unpaid. If an employee is entitled to be paid then the company policy should set-out how much pay, or the maximum hours that will be paid for that day.

Sometimes the person has to take their vacation at a specified time (some companies close for a Christmas break and employees may be obliged to take their paid vacation then). The amount of time off in the year is stipulated in employee contracts.

When last did you read your contract of employment, let alone the rules applicable to your employees? If the person only started work part way through the year they might not be entitled to the full quota of leave for that year, but rather only an amount that’s reduced proportionally by the time they weren’t working for the company. It sounds confusing already, and it’s partly the reason ClockShark PTO has been such a success.

Disciplinary policies

Employees who are absent without a valid acceptable reason are usually in breach of the company disciplinary policies. Employees who are absent are disruptive to project progress and often it upsets productivity, especially if a key worker is absent. Consider when a crane or excavator operator is absent, it could hamper the entire team who may not be able to work effectively without the crane or excavator. But, even when an ordinary worker is absent it could leave a hole in the team, possibly meaning that the skilled workers are hampered.

It’s therefore essential that project managers, supervisors or foremen take disciplinary action against those who are absent with no acceptable and valid reason. Failure to do so can lead to absenteeism increasing on the project.

But who is tracking how many days each employee has taken off in the year?

Reasons for time off work

Although someone taking leave is disruptive to your work and team, you shouldn’t stop an employee from taking time off when they have a valid reason. Of course, it’s essential that the person completes a company leave/vacation form which should be submitted to the pay officer. This’s particularly important so that the amount of days that the person has taken leave is tracked.

Sick leave

For instance, an employee may be entitled to 10 days paid time off for illness in a calendar year. Any sick leave days in excess of this won’t be paid. However, if nobody has tracked how many paid sick days the employee has already taken in the year, then even though they’ve already had their quota of paid time off for the year they’re going to continue receiving pay while they’re sick.

Sure, the worker is fortunate and scores extra money, but imagine the cost to the company if this is repeated by 10, 20 or more employees. This eats into the company’s profits and ultimately impacts everyone’s wages and bonuses. It’s maybe money that could even have been spent on purchasing new equipment.

Remember too that the person may be transferred to another supervisor or project, so if there’s no record of the amount of time off that you granted them, then their next project manager, supervisor or foreman will assume that they’ve had no days off for the year. Lucky employees, they’ll be able to have a second lot of paid time off.

Annual vacation days and holidays

Often we’re under pressure to complete projects. This causes projects to work long hours and it may even be necessary to work through vacations or on statutory holidays. It’s important, however, that everyone has an opportunity to take their annual vacation days and statutory holidays. It’s essential that you take your vacation. Everyone needs an opportunity to rest and spend time with their family. Families want time together. Don’t be the Grinch that stole the holidays! Plan your work so that you and your crew can have time off. Workers that have time off to rest and spend with their family are often more productive.

Depending on company policy, annual vacation days that haven’t been taken may be accumulated, while other companies might stipulate that the leave not taken is forfeited. In the past, I’ve had employees accumulate large amounts of vacation days, sometimes in excess of 3 months. This is a liability (future cost) to the company, because at some time in the future the employee will take their allotted vacation days and be paid while they use this time off – has the company set aside money for this time, or will it be a cost that a future project must cover?

In some companies, employees are allowed to choose to be paid the vacation days owing to them in lieu of them taking the days off.

Although employees may prefer the money, this practice should be discouraged, because it defeats the object of annual vacations – which is to have time to rest, time with families, time to get away from work and recharge, and not a means to gain an extra paycheck.

It should be noted that normally only annual vacation days are allowed to be accumulated. Usually sick, bereavement and compassionate leave are given and used on an annual basis. Just because a person has an entitlement to, say, 10 days paid time for illness in a year, doesn’t mean that the person can use the full 10 days even when they aren’t actually sick, nor does it mean that the unused sick days can be rolled over to the next year, or paid out to the employee.

Having a sick person at work means that they could infect others, it often means that they aren’t fully productive because of their illness, and sometimes it could even be dangerous to the person’s health and to the safety of others on the project. If you or someone in your crew is sick then go see a doctor. If the doctor books you off work stay at home. Of course, always ensure that people who have taken time off work because they were ill, were actually sick, and normally they should bring a medical certificate/note as proof.

Family leave

Some employees come to project managers, foremen, and supervisors with hard-luck stories, maybe problems at home. Reasons why they need to go home, or why they were absent from work. Sometimes these are fabricated, so always ask for proof. It’s amazing how some workers always have problems with their transport, or there’s a different family member dying every month! From time to time people do suffer dramas at home and they do need time off work.

Occasionally you should show a little compassion and understanding, but in all cases, the time off must be correctly recorded. But, often it’s the same people who seem to have dramas – will you have a record to check when last you granted the personal time off and how frequently they’ve taken time off? Personal lives and problems shouldn’t interfere with work. They shouldn’t have to impact the project. Of course, where a person can’t sort out their lives and there are continued dramas you will have to take a tougher stance.

Continued absenteeism shouldn’t be tolerated unless there’s really exceptional extenuating circumstance – but these should probably be discussed with your managers.

Always ensure that you take time off to rest, time to spend with your family.


Unregulated absenteeism disrupts projects. Paying people when they’re absent and aren’t entitled to be paid is an unnecessary cost that eats into project and company profits. Not paying an employee for time off which they were entitled to be paid could lead to worker unhappiness, poor morale, and even legal problems.

Project managers, foremen, and supervisors must ensure that time off is recorded correctly. Yet, employees who are ill shouldn’t be at work and everyone should have time off for vacations and time to spend with their families.

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