In a large or midsize business, it may be relatively simple to replace employees at the last minute. However, even if you have a large staff pool to choose from, excessive absenteeism can cost your business productivity due to the disruption in workflow.

Absenteeism costs about $3,600 a year for hourly employees and $2,650 a year for salaried employees. When looked at cumulatively, absenteeism costs 6.8 billion a year in sales positions, and $8.5 billion in service positions. These costs arise out of wages paid to higher cost replacement employees, overtime related to the replacement employee, administrative costs, and poor morale among employees forced to fill the empty shift.

Although a great deal of absenteeism is unavoidable, a high absenteeism rate can hurt your business.

Causes of Absenteeism

Absenteeism is essentially any unplanned time away from work. Employees often miss work for a number of reasons:

  • Illness and injuries
  • Childcare and family responsibilities
  • Depression and stress

While these are legitimate reasons to miss work occasionally; unfortunately, employees sometimes use these reasons to get out of work.  To identify if this is happening, look for patterns in absences, like calling in sick on Fridays.

How Employers Can Prevent Absenteeism

As an employer, you should implement a policy around absenteeism. It should include at what point to involve the employee in any disciplinary action, as well as when to issue a verbal warning, written warning, suspension, or when to terminate the employee.

However, a more proactive approach is to create policies that discourage absenteeism in the first place. Outside of disciplinary policies, these include:

Flexible and Collaborative Scheduling
When employees’ lives outside of work are taken into consideration, and schedules are built around their availability, they are less likely to be absent from work.

Employee Engagement
Employees that are disengaged and uncommitted to their jobs are more likely to miss work. Maintaining a positive work environment, providing regular performance feedback, and making career advancement available can improve employee engagement.

Mental Health Policies
Employees who have depression are absent 4-5 days more than those who aren’t depressed, resulting in an estimated $23 billion loss in productivity a year to U.S employers. Allocating resources to employees’ mental health and implementing wellbeing programs can help prevent depression in the workplace.