Absenteeism in Workplaces


Picture this…you are a manager for a mid-sized hotel during peak season. It is a Sunday morning and three of your employees have called in sick today. This is the second time this month this has happened. What are you going to do? They are good at their jobs when they are there, but when they absent, pandemonium sets in. As you are trying to find replacements for the absent employees, all of a sudden you stop and wonder how much money their absenteeism is actually costing your company.

Well, your concerns are valid, and many managers do not know how to tackle the problem. Research has shown that excessive absenteeism may be a large expense for your company.

A 2006 CCH Unscheduled Absence Survey confirms your concerns. On an annual basis, absenteeism can cost a large company as much as $850,000 in direct labor costs. And there are indirect costs such as lower morale, lost productivity, the cost of temporary workers, etc. Most absenteeism is not due to personal illness. The survey found that employees are more likely to be absent due to a combination of factors such as family issues (24%), personal needs (18%), stress (12%) and a sense of entitlement (11%). Workers between the ages of 18 and 35 have the highest rates of unscheduled absenteeism. In particular, women in their child-bearing years struggle with balancing presence at work with family responsibilities. (p. 10) The link the 2006 CCH study is: 2006 CCH Unscheduled Absence Survey (Links to an external site.)

To try to curb unscheduled absenteeism, many organizations provide “work-life” programs to help their employees manage complexities of life. The 2006 CCH Survey showed that the top five programs that are most used by employees are: employee assistance programs, wellness programs, leave for school functions, flu shot programs and alternative work arrangements.

In addition, employers surveyed reported an increasing problem with “presenteeism”. The survey found that 56% of the respondents indicated that they had a problem with employees coming to work when ill. [Companies with low morale reported being impacted both ways — they have higher rates of absenteeism and presenteeism than organizations that report good employee morale.] Why are workers who are ill coming in? The survey indicates that the top reasons are: no one to take the employee’s place at work; desire not to lose vacation time; fear of discipline; desire to save the sick leave for later in the year; company loyalty; organizational culture that discourages people from using sick days; and too difficult to work from home for some people. (pp. 10-11).

For this discussion activity, I’d like you to examine the effects of absenteeism in your workplace. If you are not currently working, consider a previous place of employment. Discuss with your classmates how employees who are excessively absent have a detrimental effect on the workplace. Also discuss the type of training program you would devise and implement to deal with this issue.

Please be sure to respond to your classmates by either commenting or making suggestions on how they can strengthen their training program so that it is much more effective in curbing the problem of excessive absenteeism.

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