Top 5 causes of employee absenteeism

As a business-owner or manager you rely on your staff to get things done. When employees don’t show up for work it causes disruption to your work plans, takes up your valuable time and lowers the company’s productivity. It can hit small business particularly hard, both financially and culturally.

Absenteeism is commonly defined as an employee’s intentional or habitual absence for work. People miss work for a number of reasons, some understandable and legitimate but others less so.

The CIPD Absence Management Annual Survey Report 2016 revealed that the average number of days lost per employee per year was 6.3. Average absence rates varied considerably within and between sectors – eg. on average manual workers had 2.1 more days’ absence each year than non-manual workers. Financially, the overall median cost to business of absence per employee was £522.

Considering the costs, it’s worth taking time to consider the reasons why employees don’t turn up for work.

Here’s the top 5 causes of employee absenteeism.

  • Minor illness (for example colds/flu, stomach upsets, headaches and migraines) – this is the top reason for short term absence (up to four weeks).
  • Stress – Stress is the most common cause of long-term absence and especially prevalent amongst office-based staff. This is also related to absence due to depression or anxiety.
  • Injury – this could be work-related or otherwise. Musculoskeletal injuries were more common for manual workers.
  • Family commitments – employees may need to be absent for childcare or to look after elderly relatives.
  • Disengagement – studies have shown that people who are dissatisfied with their jobs are absent more frequently. This could be due to their perception of the work itself or a sign of more serious problems such as bullying or harassment in the workplace.

Alarmingly, the 2016 CIPD Survey also found that the proportion of organisations that monitor the cost of employee absence was comparatively low in some sectors e.g. in ‘manufacturing and production’ 28%, while 55% of ‘public service’ organisations monitored absenteeism.

As an efficient business owner or manager you should want to know the extent to which your business is affected by these issues, and crucially what it is costing your business. HR departments can be asked to check files and records to manually compile records. However, you can save time on gathering this information if you have an automated time and attendance system.

Systems such as uAttend are cloud-based employee management systems which generate automatic timesheets and which can easily run reports about employee attendance and, of course,  levels of absenteeism. Being cloud-based, the system can be accessed from any web-enabled PC, laptop or smart device which makes it convenient for busy supervisors and managers.

Once you know exact rates of employee absenteeism you can decide on a strategy – the data may reveal that there is not a significant problem. On the other hand, the automated information may reveal exactly where problems are occurring, enabling you to tackle this with the employees concerned with the necessary information. Given the variety of reasons why employees are absent from work, a responsible and fair employer will want to explore with their employee how the situation can be improved for both parties.

About the Author

Chronologic - uAttend is part of the Chronologic workforce management portfolio. To find out more about our time and attendance software solutions call 01761 410015 or email