Managing absenteeism within a company is becoming increasingly difficult.  In 2020 during the pandemic, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3% of the workforce was gone on any one day.  No surprise, this amount was higher in Healthcare Support Occupations (4.9%), Personal Care (4.3%), and Food Preparation (4.1%).

Interestingly, in July 2021, the CDC reported Health-Related Workplace Absenteeism among full-time workers highest in Washington and Oregon with 4.18% and 3.61%, respectively.

Several sources note the cost of unscheduled absenteeism for hourly workers is roughly $3600 per year.  Reasons for this include:

  • Wages paid to the absent employee and the employee covering the shift including overtime
  • Administrative costs of managing absenteeism
  • Reduced productivity
  • Safety issues
  • Poor morale

What is Absenteeism

Absenteeism refers to an employee’s habitual absence from work—usually intentional and without any good reason. It goes beyond any absences related to things like occasional sickness, vacations, and other personal time. While a few absences here and there don’t normally pose a problem, absenteeism can.

Cause of Absenteeism

Employees are absent for a variety of reasons, many of which are valid.  However, other reasons are not.  It is important to find the root cause of an employee’s absenteeism.  These can include:

  • Illness and Injuries whether on or offsite
  • Child, elder, or caregiver with an illness
  • Burnout and stress from both inside and outside the workplace
  • Depression and substance abuse
  • Disengagement – Employees with no motivation to go into the office
  • Bullying and harassment
  • Inequity in the workplace whether real or perceived
  • Job hunting

Consistently arriving late, leaving early, and taking longer breaks can also be a sign of absenteeism.

Understand in many states or municipalities, some of these forms of absenteeism are protected.  Others can be addressed with proper communication between the manager and the employee and through wellness programs.

Managing Absenteeism

The most important part of controlling absenteeism is setting proper expectations with your employees.  This includes defining what proper attendance is.  Proper attendance can include if attendance is on-site or remote, there is a set scheduled start and end time, or they must be available during specific core hours of business.  Equally important to the definition of proper attendance, stating why attendance is also important.  Reasons may include tasks that are time-sensitive, regulations that require designated ratios of employees to customers (patients), or they must be available when most customers need your product or service.

These expectations should be noted in your job posting, job description, attendance policy, and performance reviews.

Another area that helps with absenteeism is having an established procedure for work call-outs. When immediately practical, be clear it is mandatory for employees to notify their employer of an absence.  These instructions should include who they should contact, when they should call, the method of communication, the reason for the absence, and when they expect to return.  Make certain your call-out policy complies with any state or local laws.

Advice on Managing Absenteeism

1. Have a record of your call-outs

Recently, texting a person’s supervisor has been used as a common method for an employee to call out.  This can pose problems when terminating someone because of a violation of the attendance policy if these texts are not captured and recorded.  Have a system that tracks attendance and can record the necessary information.

2. Communicate often

If there are attendance issues with an employee, it is important to find out the root cause of their problem.  Many managers do not like to have this conversation because managers are trying to avoid conflict.  It is important to know, addressing these issues from a position of empathy and truly trying to solve the root problem is better for everyone.  Train managers on how to have this conversation.  For example, a person starts to come in consistently 10 minutes late it may be because of a change in their bus schedule.  A modification of their schedule could easily solve this problem if it still fits the business need.

3. Retention bonus

Some employers may offer an attendance bonus if an employee has ‘perfect attendance’.  Understand there are too many situations out of the employee’s hands that can prevent them from getting perfect attendance.  Most employers want their employees to stay home if they are sick, so the sickness does not affect everyone else at the location.  This is almost penalizing the employee for doing what the employer would prefer they do.  In addition, there may be compensation challenges when it comes to bonuses in a week where the employee has overtime.  Bonuses must be paid at the ‘regular rate of pay’, and overtime may modify that formula.  Instead, go to a Retention Bonus.  An example is if an employee is employed for the last 6 months, they get an additional 3% bonus of wages earned.  To qualify, they must have satisfactory performance and are actively employed on the last day.  This way it is fair to both full-time and part-time employees as it is based on total wages earned during the period.  The time frame and bonus amounts can change, but you get the picture.

How we can help

A streamlined absent strategy will help your organization meet its obligations while minimizing administrative investments. Time Equipment Company’s system automates leave tracking and allows the recording of notes about the absence.  In addition, it can help you find a replacement who is available, qualified, and will not put them into overtime.

To learn how we can help your company manage absenteeism, contact Time Equipment Company at or 800-997-8463.