Tackling Absenteeism

We’ve explored how you can boost productivity and avoid unnecessary loss of cost in your organisation by taking the proper steps against...

Indeed Flex

17 June 2021

5 min read

We’ve explored how you can boost productivity and avoid unnecessary loss of cost in your organisation by taking the proper steps against staff absenteeism.

What is absenteeism?

Absenteeism is when a worker takes regular and unauthorised time off work. It can either be intentional or due to underlying issues not recognised by the employer as a valid reason for time off. Absenteeism goes beyond just the occasional absence from work. Organisations can expect their workers to take a certain amount of days off work due to illness or unavoidable circumstances, but absenteeism is where it becomes a recurring problem.

Why is absenteeism an issue for organisations?


According to Recruiting Times, a sick day, on average, costs UK employers approximately £107.85. Having an issue with absenteeism is going to be a massive hit to the company finances.


Regularly being a team member down is going to affect the whole team. Someone has to pick up their responsibilities and it’s going to be a drain on resources. 


Other employees will pick up on the absenteeism and there is a danger of it becoming an encouraged habit if it’s not met with any consequence. People can adopt the attitude of “if they can do it, so can I”.  

What causes absenteeism? 

Burnout and stress

When workers experience prolonged periods in a high-pressure environment, it can lead to stress or even burnout. Employees may need a longer time to recover in between shifts of this nature or will look to avoid them by not turning up when they are next on the schedule. 

Employee relationships

Bullying or harassment in the workplace needs to be handled effectively to avoid it becoming a significant issue. Employees who feel uncomfortable at work are more likely to call in sick to avoid the situation.


It’s important for workers to feel committed to their job. When workers lack motivation it can affect their drive to turn up and do the best job they can.

External circumstances

You can’t predict what’s going to happen to people in their life away from work. There are a number of unavoidable events that can lead to a rise in absenteeism for example; an underlying illness, bereavement, mental health and more.

Absenteeism and the pandemic 

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a wave of uncertainty, especially when it comes to staffing. With a list of new health and safety regulations and a roadmap of government guidelines, it’s no surprise employee attendance has been affected. The healthcare industry saw the highest sickness absence rate in 10 years with the peak being over 79 000 full-time staff absent each month. For customer-facing industries like retail and hospitality, the reopening made for an extremely high-pressure work environment. The industrial industry also felt the pressure as many deliveries became even more of a necessity during the lockdowns. It’s all a dangerous recipe for staff absenteeism.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that the number of people diagnosed with depression has doubled during the pandemic. This decline in mental health and lack of support from employers makes it more likely for staff to need time off.

What can organisations do to prevent absenteeism?

Absenteeism is a complex issue to navigate but by putting certain protocols in place and actively keeping track, you’ll be in a better position to tackle it. Consider the following points…

Have clear guidelines

The more detail you can give staff on your expectations for their attendance, the better. By having digestible guidelines to what is acceptable when it comes to missing shifts, the workers will have a better idea of approaching calling in late or sick. In this guide, you can also include details of the consequences for any absenteeism. If the punishments are appropriately severe this will act as a deterrent.  It’s important that you stick to these guidelines and treat each worker with the same regard. 

Examine company culture

Are you providing a positive and rewarding work environment? Employees that are happy and respected at work, are going to show more loyalty to your organisation. Consider offering support for their wellbeing and encourage an understanding culture. It’s important any managerial level staff are properly trained to know how to treat their team members. They should also be able to identify any workers having issues affecting their attendance and to act accordingly.

Offer more flexibility 

In recent years, flexibility has been brought to the forefront of worker demands. Employees are crying out for the ability to have more freedom in how and when they work. If they can select shifts around their schedule, you’re far less likely to encounter staff absences. Flexible staffing is also a great way to enhance your workforce. By hiring a mix of permanent and contingent workers, you’ll be able to plug any holes created by absenteeism quickly and efficiently. 

Are you looking for personalised advice on flexibility? You can book in for a call with one of our staffing experts.