The Impact of Absenteeism on the Workforce

Absenteeism can have a huge impact on a workplace, but you may not even realise it. Read more about how it may affect your workforce here. Enjoy!

June 21, 2023

Absenteeism at a work is a problem for all parties involved.

No one wants to make life harder for their colleagues.

Managers don’t enjoy scrambling to find a temporary solution to an absent employee. 

However, sometimes absenteeism can’t be helped.

Sometimes, an employee will find themselves in a position that makes going to work impossible.

Whether it’s an unavoidable absence or a questionable sick day off, absenteeism will inevitably impact a workforce. 

Absenteeism can create a variety of different issues. These range from reducing morale to an increase in wasting a manager’s time dealing with discipline. 

It’s these impacts that prove that policies and procedures are needed to deal with absenteeism.

These help you, as a manager, to showcase how your company expects employees to behave. 

They also help your employees, granting them insight as to understand how to handle absenteeism.

Overall, it’s a win-win.

What is Absenteeism?

Before we can understand just how much absenteeism can impact a workforce, it’s important to know exactly what we can define as absenteeism. 

The term may conjure thoughts of employees going AWOL, but really, absenteeism can mean a lot of different things.

Some of these reasons are much more forgivable than others, which is why absenteeism isn’t always a cardinal sin of office life.

It may have an impact on the workforce, but certain forms of absenteeism are much easier to handle than others.

Generally speaking, absenteeism can refer to...

Sick days

From recovering from a nasty cold to requiring surgery, sick days can vary in length and impact on a workforce.

Naturally, longer bouts of sick leave should be dealt with by enlisting long-term solutions.

These include finding replacement workers. Though even this can negatively impact a workforce.

Bereavement leave

Employees can take time off work to mourn family, friends, or even pets.

It can be difficult to navigate this type of absenteeism, as it isn’t always clear how much time off should be given.

Family emergencies

Life can blindside both employees and their loved ones.

When a team member needs to quickly leave for the day it can be hard to prepare for its impact.

This is even more true if they then need to take additional days off.

Jury duty

Complete chance can require your employees to leave work for reasons completely beyond their control.

This includes the likes of jury duty or their presence being required during a court case.

Naturally, sick days can be one of the most common instances of absenteeism. 

However, they rarely require or merit as much scrutiny or evidence as, say, bereavement leave.

Some companies may not even ask for a doctor’s note to prove the validity of a sick day. 

How to Pre-emptively Prepare for Absenteeism

It’s impossible to gauge how likely someone will be absent during their time at a company.

Sometimes, day-to-day life can cause abrupt and unexpected bouts of absenteeism. 

This is true, even with some of the best talent in the industry in charge of the hiring process

However, you can prepare your team or your business if certain things come up during the hiring process. 

For example, you can ask a candidate for a role whether they have any special needs.

Knowing these can help ease them into their new role.

This can include anything from certain medical requirements to the possibility for flexitime to handle family issues.

This isn’t to discriminate against them, it can simply prepare you to know how they may need to be accommodated too. 

The Costs of Absenteeism

Some team members may not realise how a sick day here or there makes much of a difference. 

Many employees will rarely consider just how serious the ramifications of an unexplained absent day can be.

This can be either because they don’t understand the impact or they just don’t care,

Naturally, absenteeism can set off a negative chain reaction for many reasons.

One sick day can begin a sequence that can cause some serious problems for a company. 

Not unlike dominos knocking each other down.

Rates of absenteeism vary from industry to industry, but they greatly impact each one regardless.

2018 saw percentage rates of sickness vary from 1.3% to 2.9% in the last five years alone. 

The Office for National Statistics estimates that approximately 683 million workdays have been lost through sickness absence.

This is in the labour industry alone. 

While it’s hard to list every single negative effect that absenteeism can have on a workforce, some overall impacts include...

Limited growth potential

One team member’s absenteeism can put the brakes on an entire department’s growth.

Whether they’re not in the office for training or there’s no time to properly offer a team training.

Poor staff performance

It’s highly likely that a regularly absent member of a team will offer poor staff performance.

Unless the employee works exceptionally hard to make up for each day of work they’ve missed.

This will be especially true when compared to normal, diligent members of a team.

Bad blood between staff

Anyone who’s had to work harder due to an absent employee will understand just how unfair it can feel.

It can be extremely stressful feeling like they have to pick up their slack.

This sense of unjustly having to work harder can naturally result in negative feelings towards the absent employee.

This is exacerbated when covering the absence often comes with no reward.

Bad blood can arise regardless of the absent member of staff’s reason for absenteeism.

This can also be compounded further if more than just one team member has to help with these efforts.

An overall loss of profits

Finally, the culmination of all of these elements can result in profits falling. This can result from several factors.

Lower motivation, resulting in less or subpar work, is one.

Simply failing to have enough of a workforce to properly fulfil the requirements of a team is another.

Ultimately, absenteeism can lead to a decline in profits.

How to Lower the Impacts of Absenteeism

It can be difficult to flatten the curve of a declining workforce.

However, there are ways of lowering the impacts of absenteeism. 

For example, you can address sick days by offering incentives that dissuade employees from taking them.

These can include an annual bonus for no sick days taken.

It’s worth noting though that this opens up the potential for genuinely ill employees to spread disease in an office.

You can also regularly engage an absent employee in conversation and try to establish a way to prevent further absenteeism.

This doesn’t mean that they should be disciplined for absenteeism but that the root of the absenteeism should be addressed. 

Perhaps they’re feeling bullied or harassed within their workplace.

Perhaps they’re suffering from mental health issues that need time to be dealt with.

The point is, there are certain ways to prepare for and lower the possibility of absenteeism.

However, they come with their risks. 


Keeping a dialogue open with your workforce is important.

This ensures that they feel comfortable addressing any issues that might be causing absenteeism. 

You’ve hired someone that you felt would be a great addition to your team.

You should strive to keep them happy and healthy so that they keep their absenteeism as under control as possible.

Coburg Banks - Multi-Sector Recruitment Agency
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