Absenteeism On The Private Security Industry Management Essay

The aims of this study were largely the following:

‘ To see whether gender and employment grade contribute towards the absence of security officers during office hours;

‘ To find out whether security officers routinely submit a sick note after being absent, and also to determine whether sick notes submitted from traditional healers are considered valid by employers;

‘ To ascertain management practices and responses to combating absenteeism, and

‘ To identify what can be done to reduce absenteeism.

The main research instrument to be used is a questionnaire. Two different questionnaires will be prepared, one for managers and one for security officers. The questionnaire had both closed ended and open ended questions. The data in this research report will be gathered by means of literature review and questionnaires.

This study attempts to find the answer to this question. Absenteeism is unpleasant, both to the employee and to the company since it has a harmful effect leading often to the loss of contracts and results in the greater unemployment of many people. Unless and until the issue of absenteeism is brought to the closer attention of the security industry as a whole, absenteeism will continue to be a major problem for this industry.


Private Security industry is growing rapidly and this was noticed by the state in the 1980s.This growth led the government to encourage the industry to establish a regulatory body for the better control of this industry. As a result the Security Officer’s Board (SOB) was established in 1989.This Board was set up in order to control the security officers and their status. This Board ensured that all security service providers were registered with this body.

The private security Industry in South Africa has grown rapidly over the last twenty years. In 1990 private security industry in South Africa was valued at R1.2 billion, in 1997 this figure was put at R6 billion, and by 1999 it had reached an estimate of R9 billion. In January 2004 this value was estimated to be R14 billion, the latest estimate put down by Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority(PSIRA) in March 2007 put the estimated annual turnover of the industry in excess of R30 billion. The guarding sector is the largest one in the industry. By the end of March 2007 the whole private security industry had approximately 900 000 persons registered with PSIRA ‘ of whom 301 584 were deemed to be ‘active’- compared to 1999-2003 where 102 168 persons were registered as security officers.



The private security company has grown in size and scope, particularly over the last twenty years. Their work is increasing because individuals and companies are making more effort to protect themselves and their properties through the use of security equipment or manned guards. However absenteeism is the problem in the security industry. Management of security companies need to be proactive in order to reduce absenteeism in the workplace. Ideally they should aim to make conditions of security work more attractive, and also make efforts to satisfy the needs of the employees.

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Improving all these would go far towards helping companies themselves to better serve their clients who make use of their services. South African companies are losing more than R23m due to absenteeism in the work place. If this loss estimate is accurate it would represent a definite indication that absenteeism is a fairly serious problem in the work place.

Absenteeism is difficult to deal with at the best of times since employees can simply produce a doctor’s certificate (sick note).These can be, and at times are forged. This then should be the primary question asked by managers when presented with sick notes. How valid is the presented doctor’s certificate? Within the context of absenteeism and for this particular study a further question that needs to be posed is: Why do security officers stay away from their work stations?

The further question that can be asked is: Why would security officers, given the nature of the type of work they do, stay away from their work station? This study will find the impact absenteeism has on the private security industry per se, and how it can be prevented. A further complication in South Africa had been the fact that some of the security officers produce sick notes from traditional healers. Again the question arises: How valid are the sick notes? Will employers admit sick notes from traditional healers?


‘ Sick absence ‘ This occurs when a person is absent due to a reported illness, whether the illness is genuine or not. A company’s policy will usually state at what stage a medical certificate is required, eg after two days off.

‘ Authorized absence ‘ This occurs when an employee is absent for any reason rather than illness, and is accepted by management. Employees should be encouraged to seek permission beforehand if the situation allows for it. Most security companies will accept such absences if the security officer calls in before the absence so that they can timeously arrange for a replacement officer.

‘ Unexcused absence ‘ This is when an employee is absent without permission and doesn’t even inform the employer of such unauthorized absence. This is considered as unacceptable and should not be tolerated by company management. Disciplinary procedures are usually used to handle this kind of problem.


The causes of absenteeism are varied and many. The security officer may be absent due to when an employee has physical, mental or emotional problems that might prevent them from going to work. As a result absenteeism for genuine reasons of ill health therefore is largely out of the employer’s control. Another main cause of absenteeism that has been identified is the level of motivation of an employee. An employee’s level of motivation can be influenced by his age, length in the service, job satisfaction, job situation, values and expectations, family responsibilities, managerial policies and attitudes and even how far they


Tonnello (2005:18) states that it is a common expectation that high workloads, low pay and poor benefits will be the major causes of absenteeism. However, Tonnello indicates that in numerous employee surveys absenteeism has generally been identified as a symptom of low job satisfaction, sub-standard working conditions and consistent negative and unfair treatment dished out by first-line managers.

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Moreover, according to Tonnello (2005:19), some human resource specialists have found that repetitive; boring jobs coupled with uncaring supervisors and/or physically unpleasant workplaces are likely to lead workers to make up excuses for not coming to work. Managers in fact have to ask themselves the question of how much formal training their supervisors have received with regard to dealing with and managing any reduction in absenteeism. If their answer is none or very little, they really need to find the solutions and implement specific measures and strategies to deal with this problem.

In general, absenteeism has a serious impact on individual organizations as well as on the community (Claase-Schutte & Pillay 2004:1220).There are various categories in which the impact on absenteeism can be placed. These are discussed below:


According to Orrick (2004:3) absenteeism reduces the effectiveness and efficiency of a specific security department experiencing absenteeism. The affected department’s operations become less effective since supervisors have to reassign the duties of the absent employee to other staff.


With regard to financial impact Orrick (2004:4) indicates that absenteeism can lead to loss of income, productivity, service delivery and client dissatisfaction and this can result in the loss of contracts since the clients are reluctant to continue hiring or contracting a company that has a consistently high rate of absenteeism.


Orrick (2004:4) states that when employees are repeatedly absent without valid reasons it reflects poorly on their integrity, honesty and work ethos. Overall this diminishes the confidence that fellow employees, supervisors and employers have in the absent staff member’s ability and commitment to fulfill their work duties honestly.


With the above broadly defined categories of the impact of absenteeism in mind the following research questions were formulated for this study:

? What are the main causes of absenteeism?

? What can be done to reduce absenteeism?

? What are the real causes of absenteeism?



5.1 Aim of the research

The aim of this study was to explore the causes of absenteeism in the security industry in the Gauteng Province of South Africa. In order to accomplish this aim, a number of objectives needed to be formulated for this study. These objectives were formulated as follows:

5.2 Objectives of the research

? To determine the main causes or reasons for absenteeism of security officers in the private security industry in Gauteng.

? To determine if security officers routinely submit a sick note after being absent.

? To gain an understanding of the needs of the security officers for more effective management of the problem of absenteeism in the industry.

? To determine if security managers and officers have a common understanding about the causes surrounding absenteeism.


6.1 The value of the research

The intention of this section is to outline the importance of this research. It provides relevant contexts in which the study is of particular significance and possible value to the private security industry as a whole.

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6.2 The value to the institution

Currently only limited research has been undertaken on Private Security Industry in South Africa due to previous perceptions that security was not a skilled vocation. Some studies on various aspects of the industry have been completed by the Department of Risk Management at the Florida Campus of the University of South Africa(UNISA).However there are a number of issues to be pursued through further research.

6.3 The value to the private security industry

The Private Security Industry in South Africa will be able to use the results for the better professionalization, in particular of the security guards sector, of this industry.

6.4 Data collection methods

The researcher will request from PSIRA the number of active companies registered with PSIRA in the Gauteng Province. After obtaining the list of registered companies the researcher will randomly select few companies sited in Gauteng.

Most of the data will be collected by means of two separate questionnaires. One questionnaire of 20 questions for security officers and of 30 questions for security managers will be drawn up. The questions will be drawn up in such a way that every respondent would understand them despite his/her level of education (i.e. clear, simple and straight language were used).The respondents will be given sufficient time to complete the questionnaires.(Examples of both questionnaires are attached as Annexure A).

The collected data will then be processed in order to:

? Determine the main causes and reasons given for the current level of absenteeism among contract security personnel.

? Find out whether security personnel routinely submit a sick note after being absent from work.

? Ascertain management principles and responses towards combating absenteeism in their company.



The researcher is planning to use the security personnel employed at POP Pta for the sake of this research because he is also employed there. He also requested the security managers to can interview the officers and they gave him a go ahead. Both security officers and managers will be given questions to answer and will be collected after four weeks.



The security managers and officers will be given enough time to complete the questionnaire and will call the researcher in approximately four weeks to collect the information. The researcher is in no hurry as he understands that security job is strenuous.


Most security managers stated that absenteeism is a problem in their company, due to these absenteeism problem managers have tried to control it by giving security guards verbal and written warnings before dismissing them. All managers agreed that absenteeism constitutes a dismissal offence. The researcher also feels that supervisors need to be trained in supervisory skills, because if they are trained they will better understand management principles which will hopefully lead to less abuses of powers such as favoritism and nepotism in companies; improvement of and opening up of more channels of communication. A contented and happy employee is a productive employee.

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