Managing Absenteeism: How to Reduce the Costs of Frequent Absences

January 30, 2024

Absenteeism is one of the issues of concern that businesses have been dealing with for many years. It is one of the most expensive hidden costs for organizations, costing businesses billions of dollars each year. Whether it’s due to illness, family emergencies or other unexpected events absences are a reality of the workplace. But what if there was a way to reduce absenteeism and its associated costs? A proactive approach to absence management can save companies time and money, at the same time fostering a more productive and healthy work environment

 In this article, we’ll explore answers to these questions and how to create a culture that supports employee wellness and reduces the need for frequent absences. We’ll also discuss strategies for managing absenteeism when it does occur, so you can keep your business running smoothly. 

Contents 

What is Absence Management?

Causes of absenteeism

The cost of absenteeism in the workplace.

Tips for managing Absenteeism

FAQs

What is Absence Management? 

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Definition of Absenteeism 

Some people tend to wrongly assume that the words “absence” and “absenteeism” mean the same thing, but there’s an important difference between the two. While absence simply refers to the act of being away from a place absenteeism, on the other hand, implies an intentional avoidance of a place where one is expected to be present. Moreover, absence can be planned, such as taking a vacation, or unplanned, such as getting sick and needing to take a day off work. Absenteeism can also be intentional or unintentional, but it’s always characterized by a lack of communication. 

Take, for example, the role of Vice Presidents. While the VP has many important duties, such as assisting the president with policy development and representing the president in certain situations, they also serve as acting presidents whenever the President is absent. This example illustrates the distinction between mere absence and absenteeism – one is an accepted and expected part of everyday life, while the other is considered disruptive and problematic. 

Types of Absenteeism 

When it comes to absenteeism, there are two main categories: voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary absenteeism is when an employee intentionally chooses to miss work without a valid reason. This can include things like taking a “sick day” when the employee is not sick or feigning illness to get out of work. On the other hand, involuntary absenteeism refers to situations where an employee is unable to come to work due to circumstances beyond their control. Examples of this include medical emergencies, family emergencies, or other unexpected events. Voluntary absenteeism can be a real problem for employers, but understanding the difference between voluntary and involuntary absenteeism is key to effectively managing absenteeism in the workplace. Let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons why employees engage in voluntary absenteeism.

Causes of Absenteeism

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What causes Absenteeism 

 Family emergencies: Generally emergencies will cause unplanned absenteeism. A family member in

passing away, an extremely ill or injured family member, and are always going to result in absenteeism.

Accidents: From car accidents to accidents in the workplace. Accidents may cause injuries that make it difficult for employees to be present in the workplace

Transportation delays or unavailability: Car breakdowns, bad weather conditions, unavailability of public transport or high traffic can directly result in an employee’s decision to be reluctant to go to work.

Harsh work conditions: Conditions that are not favourable or conducive to good productivity will eventually cause mental and physical breakdown. Especially if the workers do not have a proper wellness leave policy.

Sick leave: A sick leave is never planned. Employees will get sick and that is enviable

The Cost of Absenteeism in the Workplace.

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The Costs of Frequent Absences 

The cost of absenteeism can be staggering, especially for large organizations. For example, Walmart has estimated that it loses about $3 billion annually due to unplanned absences. These costs are not limited to direct costs, such as lost wages and the cost of hiring and training temporary workers. In addition to the direct costs of absenteeism, there are also indirect costs that can be difficult to quantify. One such indirect cost is a reduction in quality of goods and services. This can be due to tiredness and burnout caused by overtime or understaffing. Another indirect cost is decreased productivity due to the same factors. 

Managers have to spend extra time finding suitable replacements for absent employees, which takes them away from their normal duties. This, in turn, can lead to safety issues, as replacements may be undertrained and not familiar with the work environment. Finally, there is the issue of poor morale among employees who have to fill in or do extra work to cover for their absent coworkers. All of these indirect costs can add up to a significant financial burden for businesses. By addressing absenteeism, organizations can improve their bottom line and create a more positive work environment for all employees.

Tips for Managing Absenteeism 

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Managing Absenteeism 

One of the best practices for managing absenteeism is implementing a flexible scheduling policy. Flexible scheduling gives employees more control over their work hours, which can help reduce burnout and improve job satisfaction. This, in turn, can reduce absenteeism. For instance, allowing employees to work from home and complete tasks on their schedule.

Another great way to reduce absenteeism is to boost employee engagement and morale. Studies show that employees who feel engaged and valued at work are less likely to miss days. One way to boost engagement is by organizing employee appreciation days or events. Showing employees that you care about them can have a big impact on their motivation and attendance. You can also invest in training for employees, which has been shown to reduce absenteeism. The more employees know about their work and responsibilities, the less likely they are to miss days due to confusion. Finally, rewarding employees with incentives, wellness programs and prizes for good attendance can improve their well-being and loyalty, thereby helping them to remain determined and productive at work. 

Another best practice is to have a clear and fair attendance policy that outlines what is expected of employees in terms of attendance. This policy should be communicated to all employees and should include disciplinary measures for excessive absenteeism. In addition, employers should consider implementing an efficient and easy-to-use system such as  for tracking absences can help organizations reduce the costs associated with absenteeism. 

Despite your best efforts, some employees will continue to have high rates of absenteeism. In these cases, you may need to take disciplinary or legal action. You can start by speaking informally with the employee to see if there are any underlying issues that you can help with. If that doesn’t solve the problem, you can issue an informal warning. If absenteeism continues, you can escalate to a formal warning, and ultimately, termination may be necessary. Keep in mind that it can be less costly to find and train a new employee who is a good fit for the role. By implementing these practices, businesses can help reduce absenteeism and improve the overall productivity of their workforce.

FAQs

What are the recent statistics regarding Absenteeism in the Workplace? 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US  national absence rate was 3.6% in 2022. 

Can an online tool help me manage absenteeism?

Online tools like LeaveWizard have been proven to reduce absenteeism in the workplace.


Absenteeism can have a significant impact on organisations, both in terms of costs and productivity. Voluntary absenteeism, which is employee-initiated, is often the result of job dissatisfaction, poor working conditions, or other issues. Therefore, companies should take steps to improve employee satisfaction and engagement, as well as implement policies and procedures to manage absenteeism effectively.