Employee Absenteeism | 4 mins read

The Root Cause to Employee Absenteeism

the root cause to employee absenteeism
Mary Kate Morrow

By Mary Kate Morrow

The Cause and Cost of Absentee Employees

Employee absenteeism should be a top business concern for both small business and large corporation owners alike. A high absenteeism work environment can quickly become toxic and detrimental to both the employee experience and overall business bottom line profitability.

The cost of employee absenteeism in the United States is estimated to be around $225.8 billion per year. However, it is very difficult to estimate the exact cost due to variable factors ranging from short term lost productivity to long term low morale consequences.

Although the responsibility of proper employee attendance falls primarily on employees themselves, the human resources department and business owners must make sure to supply staff members with a healthy work environment and work life balance. In order to reduce employee absenteeism, HR professionals and business owners must work together to make employees feel valued and secure.

Costs of Employee Absenteeism

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Employee absenteeism has a very high price tag for businesses in the United States whether they have hourly or salaried team members on staff. Unscheduled absences are estimated to cost $3,600 per year per employee for hourly workers.

For salaried workers, the estimated cost of unscheduled absences is $2,650 per year per employee. These costs are accumulated from a variety of different sources including-

  • Increased labor costs for HR professionals
  • Changes to the work schedule
  • Reduced productivity overall
  • Wages for absent employees
  • Low morale of coworkers
The costs of excessive absenteeism vary by industry type with professional occupations suffering the greatest loss. However, it is important to note that the professional occupations category leaves out physicians, teachers, and nurses from its calculations.

There are also costs for businesses whose employees feel they are unable to take off work when they are sick. Unfortunately, this can be counterproductive and end up costing a business much more money in the long run if an employee spreads their illness.

If an employee does not feel they can stay home or take sick leave when they are ill, they may infect their other coworkers, causing a much larger employee attendance issue. Not only can employees spread illnesses to their other coworkers in the office, but also to clients and customers.

This is especially dangerous in foodservice industry professions where there is such a high potential for illness transmission. For example, case studies estimate that sick food handlers are the cause of 53% of norovirus outbreaks.

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Main Causes of Employee Absenteeism

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There are many common reasons for employee absences in the workplace. While some reasons are federally protected or human resource approved, other reasons are not.

Understanding the common reasons that employees call out of work can help business owners and human resources professionals alike to proactively decrease the absenteeism rate at their business. Common causes for employee absenteeism include-

1. Depression- Depression is the leading cause of employee absenteeism in the United States. Depression in employees can result in additional consequences beyond employee attendance issues.

For example, depression can lead to severe substance abuse issues by employees attempting to self medicate their mental health symptoms. To combat depression in the workplace it is important that human resources professionals make sure to supply a healthy work life balance and a work environment that is as low stress as possible.

2. Illness- Employee attendance is heavily influenced by staff member illnesses and injuries. Needing to attend medical appointments, injuries, and illnesses are the top reported reason for employee absenteeism in the workplace although the actual reason may be different.

During the cold and flu season especially, workers are much more likely to be absent. This statistic applies to both part time and full time employees.

3. Family- Family responsibilities can cause employee absences to increase. Responsibilities can range from a child that needs to get picked up from school to an elderly parent whose caretaker called in sick.

If employees show up late or need to leave the office early regularly it is best for HR professionals or business owners to sit down with individual employees in order to brainstorm solutions. For example, maybe letting employees stay home and work from a home office can be a mutually beneficial agreement for both the business and employee.

Key Takeaways

key takeaways 1611969131 7101

  • Unexcused absences and excessive absences in the workplace are a huge problem.
  • Common reasons that employees miss work include personal issues like depression and other employee wellness issues.

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