How Much Does Absenteeism Cost Employers?

1-2 minutes

In this blog, you will learn:

  • What absenteeism is.
  • The causes of chronic absenteeism.
  • How to reduce absenteeism.
  • How much absenteeism costs employers.
  • Discover more about our recruitment services

Absenteeism in the workplace is becoming more common each and every year. Absenteeism is challenging and can affect businesses of all sizes, impacting employee morale and productivity. As an employer, it's important to understand and recognise the signs of absenteeism and look into ways to reduce this. 

Throughout this blog, we'll explore the various factors contributing to absenteeism and how employers can reduce absenteeism to create a healthier and more engaged workplace.

What is absenteeism?

Absenteeism describes the frequent absence of an employee from the workplace without a valid reason. This absence can affect productivity and create extra work for other employees in the workplace, which is an issue as it can lead to more stress for employees and reduced revenue for the business.

Absenteeism is often a symptom of underlying issues such as job dissatisfaction, health issues, poor mental health or personal circumstances, such as struggling to find suitable childcare. 

What are the causes of absenteeism?

Employees may be absent from work for many reasons, whether they are valid or not. Employees may hide the real reasons for their absence if they’re losing interest in their role, struggling with workplace challenges or they have personal issues that they don't want to share.

Absenteeism can be caused by workplace problems and personal issues; family responsibilities, such as looking after a poorly child or caring for an elderly relative, are in the top 10 causes of long term absences.

According to HR Magazine, a third (34%) of UK businesses reported being short-staffed at least once a week, with half saying it was due to employee absences.

Some of the most common causes of absenteeism are:

  • Workplace bullying and harassment.
  • Burnout.
  • Mental health issues.
  • Family responsibilities.

Workplace bullying and harassment

Workplace bullying and harassment might create a toxic work environment that can cause a negative impact on employees' mental health. Employees who are being bullied or harassed in the workplace might feel demoralised and disengaged from their work, leading to a lack of motivation to attend work regularly. 

This may start to affect them personally as they might start to fall behind on their workload which could cause more stress when they do return to work. It can also affect other employees as they may suffer from stress by having to pick up other people's workload. 

According to Psychiatry-UK, 47% of UK workers have observed bullying at work, while one in ten have experienced being bullied in the workplace.


When employees experience burnout, they might feel emotionally drained, overwhelmed and a lack of motivation towards their work. This can cause a decreased ability to deal with work-related stressors and fulfilling job responsibilities effectively. As a result, employees may feel the need to take time off work. 

If burnout isn’t addressed, it can lead to a vicious cycle of absenteeism. Ongoing absenteeism can be an issue for employers as there may be lower quality work produced, loss of team morale and delayed delivery of work.

Mental health issues

Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety can significantly impact workplace absenteeism due to the effects on an employee's wellbeing. 

Employees experiencing depression may struggle with fatigue and difficulty concentrating, making it challenging to fulfil job responsibilities and maintain regular attendance. 

Similarly, employees dealing with anxiety may experience persistent worry, restlessness and panic attacks, which can interfere with their ability to perform effectively in the workplace.

Moreover, depression and anxiety can also cause physical symptoms such as muscle tension and headaches, further contributing to absenteeism. 

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions.

Family responsibilities

Family responsibilities can be a common cause of absenteeism as employees may need to take time off to manage personal obligations such as looking after a sick child or caring for an elderly relative. 

Balancing these responsibilities alongside work can be challenging especially for single parents or those with limited support systems and might lead to frequent absences from the workplace.

How to reduce absenteeism

Reducing absenteeism in the workplace involves addressing both the causes of it and the requirements of the employee. Employers are advised to implement targeted strategies that address the specific needs and challenges of their employees, in order to try and reduce absenteeism. 

Here are some key approaches:

  • Create an absence management policy.
  • Hold regular check-ins.
  • Look into ways to improve employee wellbeing.
  • Allow flexibility. 

Create an absence management policy

Creating a clear absence management policy helps set expectations for attendance and helps employees understand the consequences of frequent absences. 

The policy could include:

  • Guidelines for acceptable reasons for absence.
  • How employees should report unplanned absences.
  • Required documentation.
  • The process for returning to work.

Additionally, a well written absence management policy shows consistency in how absences are handled across the workplace.

Regular check-ins

Regular check-ins are crucial in reducing workplace absenteeism as they allow open communication and early problem identification. When employers consistently engage with employees, it creates an environment where concerns can be raised and addressed before they escalate. 

Open communication and regular check-ins can help to make employees feel supported, making them more likely to communicate issues that could have led to absences.

Look into ways to improve employee wellbeing

Employers should look into ways to improve employee wellbeing as this can reduce absenteeism and improve productivity. 

When employees feel physically and emotionally well, they're more likely to attend work regularly and perform at their best as they experience fewer stress related issues which reduces the need for sick days. Additionally their overall wellbeing enhances their motivation, making them more inclined to attend and engage in their work.

Employers can implement strategies to support employee wellbeing such as: 

  • Providing access to wellness programs.
  • Offering mental health support.
  • Creating a supportive work environment.
  • Offering opportunities for skill development and career growth.

Allow flexibility

Flexibility allows employees to better manage their personal and professional lives which might reduce stress and can promote work-life balance. 

When employees have the flexibility to adjust their work schedules, work remotely, or take time off as and when needed, they’re more likely to attend work regularly. This is because they have the flexibility to make up work hours if they have an emergency to attend instead of taking a whole day off, which means it doesn't affect productivity. 

How much does absenteeism cost employers?

The cost of absenteeism for employers can vary widely depending on the industry, the size of the company and the rate of absenteeism. 

With this being said, absenteeism can be very costly for employers due to factors including:

  • Lost productivity - When employees are absent, work tasks may be delayed or left incomplete, impacting the overall productivity of a business.
  • Overtime and temporary staff costs - To cover for absent employees, employers may need to pay overtime to current employees or hire temporary staff.
  • Impact on customer service - Absenteeism can lead to delays in services, impacting customer satisfaction and potentially leading to lost business.

According to Aegon UK, in the last two years, 12% of employees have taken time off work due to money worries. On average, this is a loss of almost five work days per employee each year, at an estimated cost of £237 per day.

As indicated by the Institute For Employment Studies, between 2 and 16% of annual salary bills may be spent by employers on absences. 

Who is Spencer Clarke Group?

Established in 2017, we’re a vibrant and progressive recruitment agency based in the heart of the North West. 

We continually reimagine the recruitment process to challenge convention and defy expectations; from creating a better recruitment experience to remodelling employee engagement, we thrive off doing things differently and turning heads along the way. 

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