Absence Occurrences: Why This Release Is a Game-changer

Date posted
4 August 2020
Reading time
12 Minutes
Keri McWilliams

I probably haven't been as excited about a new release for Absence since the Unified Absence Calendar in WD28. To be fair, I'm personally invested in this one- one of the brainstorms that led to this functionality is my own. I'm delighted that it gained over 5,000 views and nearly 400 votes, proving that many others would benefit from this too.

Back in 2014, I only had a couple of years absence consulting under my belt, but the gap between the time off data model and the common requirement for reporting 'instances ' of sick was an obvious one to me this was something I'd struggled with my entire HR career, even though I'd never used Workday.

Over the years I've seen several attempts at combining time off data into single periods of absence and they all had one thing in common, they needed a significant amount of manual work in Excel. I was really encouraged over the past year or so to see what looked to be some solid progress on this feature.

Absence Occurrences went into preview tenants on 20th June, so early on a Monday morning, I eagerly logged into our GMS tenant to have a look. I have customers who are probably looking forward to this functionality even more than I am so I had promised to familiarise myself as soon as possible so we could set this up for them and start testing. I was not disappointed!

Updating existing data into 'occurrences'

There is a configuration task that sets off a process, as you might expect, to turn your existing data into 'occurrences' you want for a particular absence type (or types). I'm sure the length of time this job takes will vary from customer to customer and will depend on the type of data you are creating occurrences from. I suspect table data may well take longer than most to convert my job for fewer than 5k workers for a two-year period had to run overnight. It's worth bearing this in mind if you're planning to demo to others.

The options on the task enable you to create occurrences for single absence types AND for multiple absence types grouped together. Yes, you can create occurrences for a combination of time offs, tables and leave types. There are also options that allow you to specify which 'days to include ' when joining up absences into occurrences, which will be really useful if the absence types don't enforce the same days to include when requesting. Once you've turned your history into occurrences, new absence events of this type (or types) will be converted into occurrences and there's functionality to recalculate occurrences if the data in them is changed.

New reporting access

Secondly in setup, there are new security domains to ensure the right people have access to the delivered report 'View Absence Occurrences Detail '. This is not a report targeted to ESS users at this stage, but that makes sense to me as the bigger need by far is for managers and HR users. The report itself can actually deliver a number of different reporting needs. Check 'Worker has Matching Occurrences ' to only see workers in your chosen organisation who have occurrences of the chosen type between two dates. Or check 'Worker does not have Matching Occurrences ' to only see workers who don't have a relevant occurrence of this type something that's often closely monitored in Financial Services, for example. Additional fields let you specify minimum workdays for occurrences to include, or minimum units. You can include or not include pending events and terminated workers. Potentially the best thing about this report though is that it can be COPIED. You can create as many copies of this report as you like and tailor them to your specific needs.

It gets better. Absence Occurrences comes with its own data source so that you can also create additional reports depending on your needs. While the delivered report lists out every relevant occurrence for each worker separately, I've been able to create a basic matrix report to summarise the number of occurrences per worker. I've seen some great examples of the use of analytic indicators to highlight occurrences that meet certain criteria or thresholds and just this week I managed to get a Bradford Factor calculation into a matrix report. (One caveat to that, but it's closer than we've ever been).

Time to test and give feedback

It was so valuable to get functionality this good into preview so early, and Workday really want as many customers as possible to test, test, test and give feedback so that what goes into Production tenants in 2020R2 [safe harbour] can be as effective as possible. I'd strongly encourage customers to set this up and play because it might take time to figure out how this functionality could replace any workarounds you've currently got in place and to assess any touchpoint impacts.

On its own, with the ability to report on 'periods ' of absence, I do think this functionality is a game-changer when it makes it to Production. And there's already brainstorms popping up to enhance and leverage this further the ability to cap occurrence start and end dates based on the report start and end dates would definitely be useful for Bradford Factor calculations. Using occurrences in time off validations and BP steps could fulfil a number of use cases for customers. Of course, I had to add a brainstorm, so if you see value in being able to add all the reasons for an occurrence from the base data, I've got you covered. Brainstorms need votes of course but they really need use cases in the comments please go and add yours.

I think it's clear that I couldn't be more excited to see this functionality and with any luck, I'll be doing a happy dance on 12th September 2020. I'm not even sad that Workday didn't call it 'instance reporting ' it just means I've had to relearn how to spell 'occurrences '. -


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More information?

If you have any questions about this new Absence feature, feel free to contact us at workdayinfo@kainos.com and we'll be in touch right away.


This blog contains statements that are based on information available at the time of publishing. The features and functionality we refer to today could differ materially from those released during the Workday update. It's possible that some may be delayed or withdrawn altogether by Workday.

Kainos assumes no obligation for and does not intend to update any forward-looking statements.

About the author

Keri McWilliams