Absenteeism in the workplace

What Is Absenteeism In The Workplace?

Absenteeism is when an employee consistently doesn’t appear for work at their scheduled time. This is true of both full-time and shift-working employees, and it is generally unplanned and without good reason.

While it is typical to miss work every so often, due to illness or an emergency, absenteeism becomes an issue when it happens time and time again. In addition to that, when it impacts more than just the single employee.

Absenteeism in the workplace (excused or unexcused) reduces the amount of actual working time and for this reason is unfavorable. The potential length of absence is regulated by law – mainly the Labour Code – governing principles and dimensions of employee absences during the year, or over a longer period of time. The basic components of absenteeism are holidays and exemptions from sickness or care.

Particularly negative impact on the stability of company operations is unpredictable absenteeism, and in particular the relief due to sickness. The main factors determining absenteeism are:

  • the health of the workforce,
  • working conditions,
  • psychosocial factors.

Currently an increasingly important role in sickness absence play psychosocial factors play, among others: lack of job satisfaction, lack of motivation, poor interpersonal relationships with superiors or colleagues, problems in choosing free days.

It should also be noted that employee absenteeism is significantly higher among women than among men. This is mainly due to the exercise by women hers parenting and care functions in the family.

What Are The Types Of Absenteeism?

Not all employee absences fit into the same category. If you can identify which type of absenteeism you’re dealing with, you can better establish a plan to quickly manage and correct it without issue.

Overall, there are three main types of absenteeism in the workplace:

Authorized And Planned Absences

This includes any time off that has been arranged between the employee and their superior, such as holiday leave, appointments, personal leave, paternity or maternity leave, compassionate leave, etc.

When an employee has submitted and approved their request for time off, their absence shouldn’t be an issue. With the right preparations from the employee and their team, any work and tasks can be scheduled around their approved absence accordingly.

Unplanned, Genuine Absences

Sometimes, though, needing a half-day, the full day, or multiple days off from work can’t be planned for. While disruptive to the workplace, unplanned, genuine absences are simply a part of life. These include illness, family emergencies, or accidents.

Unauthorized Absences

This is where absenteeism becomes an issue. Unauthorized and disingenuous absences are often the most frustrating scenario for those who are left to pick up the absent employee’s work and manage the absence overall. Examples include participating in a work strike or choosing not to go to work without an approved or genuine reason.

The Effects of Absenteeism

Absenteeism in the workplace affects both employers and employees alike.

Some consequences for employers include:

  • Reduced productivity levels.
  • High administration costs.
  • Increased labour costs if you hire replacement temporary workers.
  • Understaffing which could lead to poor customer service.
  • Poor morale among colleagues. This will be particularly prevalent if employees constantly have to fill in for absent staff and if they don’t see any retributions for absence.

On the other hand, the consequences for the absent member of staff include:

  • Loss of pay for their time off.
  • Reduced productivity on their return to work due to a need to ‘catch up’.
  • If absenteeism is frequent and unexplained, the member of staff could even face dismissal.

Clearly, absenteeism is costly for all of the workforce, and it’s important you know the causes, and strategies to reduce it, for the benefit of everyone.

The Eight Main Causes Of Absenteeism

Absenteeism is caused by a mix of the avoidable and unavoidable; while some causes can be improved with the help of the employee’s HR company or through team support, others are simply out of anyone’s control.

The main causes of absenteeism include:

1. Minor Illness

In the UK, the average rate of absenteeism from work due to illness is 4.4 days per year, per employee. While you can’t necessarily control when you get sick, informing your superior as soon as possible can help make your absence easier to manage.

2. Workplace Bullying Or Harassment

Workplace bullying and harassment is a prominent issue in the UK. In a 2020 survey, 23% of British workers said they’d been bullied at work, and 25% said they’d been made to feel left out.

In the workplace, specifically, bullying and harassment can include denying someone training or promotional opportunities, unfair treatment, spreading rumors, or undermining someone.

3. Mental Health Issues

Over 11 million workdays are lost due to employee stress, whether that stress is due to dealing with employee burnout or overwork, or due to family, financial, or personal issues. Aside from stress, mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, or other illnesses can often lead to an employee feeling unwell enough to miss work.

4. Major Illness And Long-Term Conditions

When an employee faces a major illness, they’ll typically need an extended period of time off work to recover, along with a clear return-to-work program that eases them back into their role.

When dealing with a long-term medical condition, an employee may need a customized work environment or more flexibility in their schedule to account for routine medical appointments.

5. Family Issues

While some employers encourage their employees to leave their personal issues at the door, in reality, it’s not so easy. Difficult situations and circumstances such as divorce, an urgent matter with a child’s school, a sickness in the family, or lack of childcare support can lead to emergencies that employees must leave work and tend to.

6. Approved Leave

Approved leave falls under the Approved and Planned Absences category, and is often much easier to manage. This includes bereavement leave, paternity leave, maternity leave, paid holiday, etc.

7. Commuting Issues

If you’re a commuter, you already know there are countless ways your daily trip to the office can go wrong. Employees can often miss hours of work due to inclement weather, delayed public transportation, construction, car trouble, or accidents.

8. Team And Management Issues

When an employee doesn’t respect or agree with their management team, becomes bitter after a negative interaction with leadership, or disagrees with their company’s decisions, they may disengage and skip out on work to avoid the situation or related stress.

Tips to Reduce Absenteeism in the Workplace

After understanding the causes for absenteeism, you should then work to reduce it. Some actionable tips for this are:

Create a clear attendance policy and set expectations

Your attendance policy should explain how to report absences, the procedures in place surrounding absences, and your policy for recording absences. It should also contain information about how you will follow up on repeated absences and the repercussions for excessive absenteeism.

You should discuss the policy with all members of staff and ask them to sign it to show their understanding.

The policy will act as a resource to your employees about your expectations. Aim to be consistent and follow the attendance policy in all possible situations.

Provide support

If an employee is absent due to personal issues, like bereavement or mental health problems, you should provide support both when they are absent and on their return to work. Support will likely make them feel happier to return to work earlier and prevent repeated absenteeism.

You could also consider offering your employees time off in lieu and/or flexible working time. This will ensure people feel like they get a good work-life balance and that you value their needs.

Reduce workplace stress

You should always try to rectify factors at work that may cause stress for your employees. For example, if a piece of equipment is broken and employees are stressing, you should aim to fix it as soon as possible.

You should also implement programmes that encourage employee health and wellbeing. This should have your employees’ physical and mental health at the forefront and will prove to your workforce that you value both their work and their health.

Provide feedback

You should provide your employees with frequent and  effective feedback, especially when they’ve done something well. If you never provide feedback, your workforce may feel that you don’t appreciate their hard efforts and you therefore won’t notice when they’re not at work.

Reward good attendance

You need to plan this one carefully, as there may be genuine reasons why somebody is absent, such as long-term sickness. However, you should aim to provide a reward for employees who display good attendance throughout the year. This will encourage all to attend and show employees who are always at work that you value them.