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by Jen Leigh on December 27, 2021

How To Manage Employee Absenteeism in the Workplace

Employee absenteeism is one of the great challenges facing companies. Absenteeism affects productivity and the company's bottom line. As such, supervisors should monitor employee absences closely and take time to determine the root cause of absence as a part of regular time & labor management. Sometimes employees are legitimately ill or have pressing family matters such as a parent or child who requires attention. Other times, employees use sick time as a means to avoid an unpleasant work environment. Once the problem has been identified, it can be easily managed.

Costs of absenteeism

Absenteeism affects your company in many ways from loss of productivity to employee morale.

Bottom line costs

Depending on your industry, the cost of absenteeism can be quite high. In a 2019 Gallup poll, the business occupations lost $24.2 billion for professional absenteeism, $8.1 billion for clerical, $2.8 billion for manufacturing and $1.3 billion for construction.

Put more plainly, a study by Circadian determined that unscheduled absences cost approximately $3,600 per year for hourly workers and $2,650 per year for salaried workers.


When an employee suddenly calls in sick even for one day, your company's entire schedule is disrupted. Managers scramble to reassign workloads so that vital projects meet deadlines.

Coworkers absorb the absent worker's duties, but do so at a cost. If they are not already fully trained for the missing worker's tasks, your company experiences downtime to train the affected coworkers. Even if coworkers can absorb tasks without additional training, their work suffers as they work on another project.

If your company hires a temporary worker to cover the duties for the day, you still lose productivity. The temporary person requires some training, taking time away from other tasks.

Employee morale

While some workers are happy to receive overtime pay to cover the cost of absentee coworkers, others find the disruption stressful.

Workers who are regularly called upon to fill in for a chronically absent coworker experience a decrease in morale. This decrease affects the absent coworker's chain of command, up and down, as everyone's schedule is disrupted.

When this disruption occurs regularly, coworkers can become resentful of the increased stress and burden, further decreasing company morale. Several studies indicate that low morale is directly tied to decreased productivity.

Causes of absenteeism

You may be aware of some of the legitimate causes for absenteeism among your employees such as extended illness or caring for a family member. These legitimate causes need not disrupt your company to a large degree as your managers can make accommodations.

When caring for a family member, many employees could work from home. This solution would greatly reduce their stress and maintain your company's productivity. Another alternative is a flexible work schedule. If the employee currently works day shift, consider changing the normal hours to second shift.

Underlying causes such as workplace bullying, depression or addiction are equally legitimate, but harder to detect. Any employee who feels as though your company is an unsafe workplace is likely to have a higher rate of absenteeism than other employees. Examine your workplace. Talk to the absentee worker's coworkers. What they tell you about him or her will tell you a great deal about whether or not workplace bullying is the underlying issue.

Preferably, you have already proactively formed relationships with your employees so that they feel comfortable discussing underlying legitimate absences with you. If you haven't done so already, talk to the employee regarding their absenteeism. Remember to be an active listener in this discussion. Show the employee that you care about their overall well-being. Together, you can explore mutually beneficial solutions to their absenteeism.

Equally important, explore other issues such as poor performance causing anxiety or an unhappy employee looking for a new job opportunity. A healthy discussion regarding the workplace may open your eyes to policy changes or workload shifts that would assist your entire workforce.

Managing absenteeism

Knowing the high cost of absenteeism, your first line of defense is a robust company leave policy. This policy details holidays and the number of sick, personal and vacation days each employee can use. The policy also spells out what constitutes each type of leave and how many "leave without pay" days your company permits prior to disciplinary actions. A good example is the Arizona sick leave policy we developed for Arizona's Paid Sick Leave Law that can be leveraged for free.  


This policy can be managed and time off for this and other types of time off, like vacation, can be tracked through a cloud-based accrual management solution for managing accrued time off. 

Supervisors are the first to know when an employee is absent. For a chronically absent employee, supervisors should look for trends. Does the employee call off sick every Friday? Is she absent after every holiday? Does he take a long weekend every few weeks?

After an extended absence, supervisors should consider conducting a back-to-work interview. This interview not only provides you with the opportunity to bring the worker up to speed, but it also shows that your company has a strong commitment to enforcing leave policies and ensuring the well-being of your workforce.

For more information on how to manage absenteeism, check out this simple guide to absence management.


As a supervisor or owner, you already have your own job duties to perform. Tracking the personal lives and absences of your employees may seem like an additional burden.

You don't need to undertake this responsibility on your own.

Inflection HR gives your small- to medium-sized business the tailored solutions you need to track your employees' time, attendance, and productivity.

From tracking time to offering insightful tips on how to handle a myriad of HR issues, Inflection HR has your solution. Contact Inflection HR today to see how we can help you with all of your human capital management needs.

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Jen Leigh

Jen Leigh is a Senior Product Specialist with Inflection HR's Cloud Based HR and Workforce Management Solutions. Connect with Jenni and the rest of the Inflection HR Team on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.