How to Address Employee Absenteeism

How to Address Employee Absenteeism

January 3, 2023

Employee Absenteeism: What Causes it and How to Address it

Employee absenteeism can cost businesses thousands of dollars a year in lost productivity. By some estimates, unscheduled absenteeism costs roughly $3,600 per year for hourly workers and $2,650 each year for salaried employees. Chronic absenteeism across a team can have a major impact on your business’s bottom line.

Absenteeism in the workplace can often feel difficult to address and manage. But knowing the causes of absenteeism and putting the right tools and strategies in place can help reduce the absenteeism rate and improve overall productivity.

The Negative Effects of Attendance Issues

Employee absenteeism in the workplace comes with a variety of direct and indirect costs.

One of the most obvious costs of excessive absenteeism is lost productivity. When an employee is chronically absent, it disrupts the entire workday. Their work may not be completed by the deadline and it takes time and resources to bring in a replacement. Other team members may need to pick up slack and managers scramble to find a replacement.

Absent employees can also take a toll on employee engagement. When team members are constantly taking time off, it can leave other employees feeling stressed and resentful that they have to do extra work.

Some other costs associated with absenteeism in the workplace include:

● Direct costs of finding a replacement or paying other team members overtime to cover an additional shift or work after hours to make up for lost work.

● Indirect costs of being understaffed or overworking other team members leading to fatigue, low employee morale, which lead to delivering poorer quality goods or services.

● Payroll disruptions caused by chronic absenteeism. Unexpected absences can make this already complicated process more difficult.

● Potential safety issues that arise from understaffed facilities or needing to bring in replacement workers that are not as qualified or familiar with operations.

As you can see, investing in the right absence management solutions can help save your business money in the long run.

What Causes Employee Absenteeism

How to address employee absenteeism starts with understanding why employees call in sick, take time off, or are constantly leaving early. Here are some common causes of absenteeism in the workplace:


In recent years, illness has been a major cause for employee absenteeism. It likely comes as no surprise that with the COVID-19 pandemic, employee absences from the workplace due to illness has dramatically increased. Even during the typical cold and flu season absences continue to spike.

Employees may take sick leave if they’re ill or if they need to quarantine. While you certainly don’t want sick employees on the job, it’s important to enforce a strict absence policy. Keep the workplace sanitized to ensure employees stay healthy while at work to reduce these absences.


Similarly, accidents are another main reason for employee absenteeism. An acute injury may cause an employee to take a long leave of absence while a chronic injury may result in an employee taking more sick days throughout the year.

Injuries may also require your employees to have more medical appointments they would need to miss work for.

Mental Health

Mental health issues can also take a toll on employee attendance. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health reported that one of the leading causes of absenteeism in the United States is depression.

When employees are experiencing depression or anxiety it can affect their ability to complete work. And even if they attend a shift, they may be unable to focus which can result in a poor quality of work.

It’s important to offer your employees support for their mental health issues.

Workplace Harassment or Bullying

When employees feel uncomfortable or unsafe at work, they naturally want to avoid it. They may leave work early to avoid confrontations to call in sick altogether.

It can often be difficult for others to identify the signs of workplace bullying or for team members to articulate if they feel they are being harassed. This is especially true if the harassment is being carried out online or by a manager.

Make sure you can identify the signs of workplace harassment and have steps in place for how to address it. By creating a safe work environment, you can reduce employee absenteeism and turnover.

Job Hunting

Sometimes, unexpected absences are due to your team members' job hunting. Finding a new job can be a long process that, naturally, takes place during the traditional workday. Your employee may unexpectedly take days off for interviews or travel. They may even take a day to work on their resume or meet with a recruiter.

While some turnover in a business is to be expected, if you notice many employees taking sick days and then handing in their notice you may have a problem. Consider improving your employee retention strategy.

Low Employee Engagement

Employee engagement and absenteeism are closely related. According to a recent study by Gallup, engaged employees make it a point to show up to work and do more work. Highly engaged business units experienced an 81% difference in absenteeism and a 14% difference in productivity.

It’s important to ensure employees are engaged while on the job so they show up for their shifts and are efficient.

Childcare or Family Emergencies

Sometimes, the unexpected happens and your employee needs to call in sick. Maybe their child got sick and can’t go to daycare or they need to take their parents to a doctor’s appointment.

One way to reduce these instances of absenteeism is to offer employees the chance to work from home (if possible). More flexible working hours can help your employees plan their day around childcare or family needs while still completing work.


Burnout, stress, and overall low morale can also be causing your employees to call in sick. If your employees aren’t feeling like they’re respected or achieving a work-life balance, they may take days off to compensate for it.

Keeping a pulse on how your employees are feeling can help stop burnout before it starts. By emphasizing a work-life balance, you can have a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce while reducing absenteeism.

How to Address Excessive Absenteeism

Knowing how to talk to an employee about excessive absenteeism can be difficult. You don’t want to pry into their personal lives, but you also need to know how you can support them. Absenteeism can come in many different forms. From taking extended lunches and leaving work early to calling in sick often or simply not showing up. If you notice these signs of excessive absenteeism, there are some steps you can take to address it.

Talk to your employee. According to Indeed, one of the first steps you should take is to have a discussion about why they have been calling in or showing up to work late. You can be sympathetic while also emphasizing your absence policy. This conversation may help you understand if an employee is being bullied and what solutions you can offer.

Offer them resources. If your employee is absent often due to a personal issue, you can offer them resources while still respecting their privacy. Make sure they know their healthcare options and wellness programs your organization may offer.

Create a plan for improvement. Come up with a plan for how your employee can improve their attendance. Be clear about timelines and expectations during this part. You may also want to schedule weekly check-ins.

Issue a formal warning. If the excessive absenteeism continues, it’s time to issue a formal warning. Keep this on file and include what the next steps would be if expectations aren’t met.

As a final resort, it may come time to terminate an employee for excessive absenteeism. By following these steps, you can protect your business against any wrongful termination claims.

How to Manage Absenteeism in the Workplace

Managing absenteeism in the workplace can seem daunting but is possible. Here are some easy ways you can manage attendance issues at your business:

Have a Clear Attendance Policy

You should always have an attendance policy in place for all new and current employees. According to Zippia, a solid attendance policy should include guidelines about taking leave, tardiness, and absences. It should also include repercussions for poor attendance.

This policy will set expectations and guide conversations about excessive absenteeism.

Offer Incentives for Good Attendance

Rewarding consistent attendance can have a positive impact on absenteeism rate. Thank employees who are always on time and consider good attendance when it comes time for a raise. Even a simple verbal acknowledgment can go a long way.

Monitor Employee Attendance

The best way to stop excessive absenteeism in the workplace before it starts is by closely and accurately monitoring your employees’ time tracking and attendance. The right time clock solution like PayClock makes it easy for employees to record their time and for managers to monitor attendance.

With a time clock, you can stay on top of your employees' attendance and flag any chronic absences to have a productive conversation with them. Spot employee absenteeism before it becomes excessive with PayClock Online employee time and attendance system.