Understanding and managing employee absenteeism

Your workforce is the lifeblood of your business. With happy and motivated employees, your company is more likely to grow and be successful. But when employees start to miss work on a regular basis or fail to show up at all, your company’s operations, productivity and bottom line can all take a hit. 

This is where the concept of employee absenteeism comes in. There are many valid reasons to call out of work once in a while. When absences from work become excessive and unjustified,  employee absenteeism becomes an issue. 

It’s important to understand, address and manage employee absenteeism so you can reduce its impacts on your business. That’s what we’ll be going over in this article. 

We will cover: 

  • The definition of absenteeism 
  • How to manage and reduce employee absenteeism 
  • What causes employee absenteeism 
  • The effects of employees skipping work

Let’s get started. 

Definition of employee absenteeism 

Employee absenteeism is a frequent lack of attendance at work without a valid cause. It also refers to an employee’s habitual failure to show up to work on time or complete assigned tasks well . 

Employee absenteeism isn’t the same as someone calling in sick or taking a few days off for a family emergency. It’s more like an employee unexpectedly skipping work for days at a time, or regularly showing up late and clocking out early. 

It’s important to understand the causes and effects of employee absenteeism. This will help you manage and prevent it as best you can. 

5 ways to reduce employees skipping work

Create an employee attendance policy

A clear and detailed employee attendance policy helps keep your employees accountable and less likely to skip work. Here are some steps you can follow to create an effective employee attendance policy.

Define what the policy will cover

Identify the employees and departments your policy will cover, the types of absences covered, and consequences of failing to follow the policy. This step will help your employees know what’s expected of them and what the repercussions are if they don’t comply.

Set clear attendance expectations

Your policy should outline attendance expectations and explain how attendance will be tracked. Your policy should define what is considered lateness, what are considered excused and unexcused absences and how many absences are acceptable before disciplinary action is taken.

Homebase’s timesheets feature keeps track of when your employees clock in and out, so you can track their attendance and punctuality easily. 

automated online timesheets by HomebaseHomebase’s Timesheets feature lets you track exactly when your employees clock in and out of their shifts

Outline protocols for reporting absences

Your policy should provide clear guidance on how and when employees should notify management about absences. Include what information an employee should provide to you when reporting an absence. 

For example, the reason for the absence and the expected date of return. Having a clear reporting procedure helps your employees know what they need to do when they need to take time off.

Communicate consequences of policy noncompliance

Your employee attendance policy should explain the repercussions of violating the attendance policy. Outline the disciplinary actions that will be taken for excessive absenteeism or repeated violations of the policy. 

Your policy should include the steps involved in the various steps of  disciplinary action. For example, starting with a verbal warning, then a written warning, then termination.

State employee accommodations

Make sure your policy outlines accommodations made for employees with a disability, medical condition, or religious observances. Provide a process for your employees to request accommodation and outline steps your business will take to provide it.

Communicate the policy with your team

Once you’ve created your attendance policy, it’s important to communicate it with your employees. Community the policy through team meetings, one-on-one conversations and an employee handbook. They should be able to access and reference the handbook at all times.

It’s also a good idea to provide training on your attendance policy. This will  ensure that all your employees understand attendance expectations and consequences.

Review and update your attendance policy regularly 

As your business evolves, so will your employee attendance policy. Review and update your attendance policy on a regular basis to make sure it meets the needs of your business and team. Gather feedback from your team on the effectiveness of the policy and adjust it as necessary.

Keep track of employee attendance

Keeping track of employee attendance helps you identify your team’s attendance patterns and spot potential problems. By tracking attendance, you can quickly see when your employees are absent or late, and address the issue before it becomes a bigger problem.

Keeping track of attendance also helps hold employees accountable for their attendance and punctuality, encouraging them to make an effort to be on time and present.

Homebase’s online time clock tracks when an employee clocks in, clock out and clock in late, and alerts you when it happens. It also tracks when other employees clock in early, so you can learn who could be costing time in labor expenses.

Offer alternative work arrangements

Offering alternative work arrangements like flexible scheduling can help your employees balance their commitments better. When employees feel in control of their work schedule, they’re more likely to come to work regularly and engaged. 

Talk to your employees to learn about what kind of alternative work arrangements will best help with their needs.

Offering a flexible work schedule can also help employees avoid scheduling conflicts, which can lead to unplanned absences. Homebase’s free scheduling tool allows employees to cover and trade shifts. All you need to do is approve.

easy online employee scheduling software by Homebase Homebase’s intuitive scheduling tool gives your employees the ability to swap shifts and feel more in control of their shifts

Allowing employees to swap their shifts can help them better manage their personal responsibilities like childcare or caring for a sick family member. This helps reduce the amount of time they’re spending away from work.

Reward employees for good attendance  

Implementing a rewards and incentives program for good attendance can help reduce absenteeism and also boost employee morale, productivity, and engagement.

By offering rewards like bonuses, extra time off, or other incentives, your employees are more likely to show up to work on time and consistently. When employees know they’ll be rewarded for good attendance, they’re more likely to make the extra effort to come to work, even when they’re not feeling 100%.

They understand that their attendance is valued by your business and that their efforts will be recognized.

Employees seeing their coworkers being rewarded for good attendance can also create a positive workplace culture, where your whole team is encouraged to follow suit and strive for better attendance themselves. This creates a culture of accountability and responsibility, where employees are empowered to take ownership of their attendance and feel proud of their accomplishments. 

Homebase’s shoutout feature lets you post praise for an employee’s good work on the app dashboard where everyone can see it. You can then accompany the acknowledgment with a reward like time off, a free meal, or bonus pay.

Implement an employee wellness program 

Employee wellness programs are designed to support the health and well-being of your employees, which can lead to a happier, more productive and less absent workforce. When your employees are healthy and happy, they’re less likely to call in sick or miss work due to health-related issues.

Some examples of employee wellness programs include:

  • On-site health screenings, fitness classes, healthy eating programs, and stress management techniques.
  • Access to mental health resources like counseling  
  • Providing healthy eating options like healthy snacks and drinks in the office

Providing access to resources like these motivates employees to make positive lifestyle decisions. This can lead to fewer absences and increased productivity. 

A wellness program can also help foster healthy habits within your workforce, which can improve employee morale and job satisfaction. When your employees feel supported and valued by you, they’re more likely to show up to work and perform at their best.

What causes employee absenteeism?

There are many reasons for an employee to call out of work. Some are legitimate and some are not. Here are some of the most common reasons behind employee absenteeism:

Illness and injury 

Employees may need to call out of work to recover from a cold, an injury, or to attend medical appointments. Employee absenteeism tends to spike during cold and flu season.

Family responsibilities

Employees may need to take time off work to care for a child or elderly relative, or to manage a family emergency. When an employee’s arrangements fall through, unexpected absences from work can happen. 

Mental health issues 

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) states depression as a leading cause of employee absenteeism. Depression, anxiety and stress can cause employees to skip work to cope with these issues. 

This can lead to increased levels of absenteeism. Employees may need to take time off to manage their mental health. They also may be unable to show up to work due to the symptoms of their condition.

Workplace harassment 

When employees experience harassment at work, they may feel uncomfortable in the workplace, unsafe at work, or unable to do their job. 

Workplace harassment can take many forms. Bullying, physical harrassment, sexual harassment or discrimination are common forms of harassment. 


Disengagement from work

When employees don’t feel engaged with their work, they may be more likely to call out of work or take time off. When they’re disengaged, they may not feel committed to their job, team or company.

Employees who don’t feel motivated to do their work may not see the value in showing up. They may also feel that their contributions aren’t appreciated.

Stress and burnout 

When employees experience high levels of stress or burnout from  work, they may feel exhausted and unable to handle the demands of their job. This can lead to increased levels of absenteeism. Employees may take time off to recover, or feel unable to attend work due to poor mental or physical health.

The impacts of habitual absence from work

The effects of employees skipping work affect both employers and employees. When employees are absent, cost can go up, productivity and morale can go down, and the workload can increase for other employees.

Increased costs 

When an employee skips work, you need to find a way to cover for their unfinished tasks. Existing employees may need to work overtime to cover for the missing employee, which can increase your payroll expenses.

You might also need to hire temporary employees to bridge the gap in labor, which can also be costly.

If absenteeism becomes a regular issue, you may need to hire more employees to maintain productivity, which can increase your payroll costs even more.

Decreased productivity 

The job duties of an absent employee are either left uncompleted or redistributed among your other employees. This can result in a backlog of work for your team and a decrease in your business’ efficiency. 

Employee absenteeism can also lead to a lack of consistency in work, which can impact the quality of the product or service your business sells. 

A habitually absent employee can also impact the morale among your remaining employees. They may start to feel overworked and undervalued, which can lead to turnover and difficulty recruiting new employees. 

Decreased customer satisfaction

When the workload of an absent employee falls on the shoulders of their coworkers, they may not have the capacity to handle the extra work. This can cause delays and mistakes in providing the products or services of your business, leading to unhappy customers who may not come back. 

Employee absenteeism will lead to an unexpected shortage of staff, often resulting in longer wait times for your customers and/or lower quality service. This can also create dissatisfied customers who leave negative online reviews. This can harm the reputation of your business and impact future sales.

Remember: This is not legal advice. If you have questions about your particular situation, please consult a lawyer, CPA, or other appropriate professional advisor or agency.

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