Top 5 Causes of Absenteeism

3rd Jul, 2020 | Trends, Data & Insights

What Is Absenteeism?

Employee absenteeism is a recurring pattern of absence from work–taking regular sick days, coming late to work, leaving early or taking long breaks.

Why is absenteeism a problem?

Unexpected absenteeism will cost a business an average of $303 per day. With 92 million working days lost in Australia per year, this totals to a staggering $33billion annually.

This financial loss is due primarily to decreased productivity resulting in lost revenue and the cost to hire temporary staff, while also negatively impacting other team members who have to cover the burden of increased workload.

This can quickly lead to an expensive cycle of absenteeism that should be addressed as soon as possible to avoid further costs to your business.

But before you tackle absenteeism, it’s important to understand what causes it in the first place.

Causes of Absenteeism

1. Illness/Injury

From relatively harmless illnesses like cold and flu, to more serious health issues like chronic back problems, there are a number of reasons why an employee may be physically unable to come to work.

These reasons are often unavoidable. However, factors in our work environment like stress, poor ergonomic design or lack of employee support may also contribute.

2. Family care

Employees with dependents to care for may find it difficult to come to work, on time or at all, if normal care arrangements fall through.

Some workplaces allow employees with dependents a certain degree of flexibility to work from home. This flexibility helps lower productivity losses as the employee will still be working.

3. Bullying

Research has found that bullying costs up to $36billion in lost productivity in Australian workplaces per year.

Bullying victims experience severe (and sometimes debilitating) stress which leads to them taking more sick leave to try and avoid the workplace, resulting in them being less able to fulfil their duties.

4. Burnout

According to, burnout is a form of chronic stress that leaves people feeling exhausted and unable to perform basic tasks, losing motivation, unable to focus or concentrate and feeling empty or lacking in emotion.

Burnout can occur for a number of reasons, including feeling pressure in the workplace, working overtime and feeling unvalued. Burnout not only lowers productivity but also leads to people avoiding work and calling in sick–contributing to absenteeism.

5. Mental health

According to a study by the State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia, 45% of Australians between the ages of 16-85 will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime.

It is estimated that untreated mental health conditions cost Australian workplaces approximately $10.9 billion per year.

In summary

It is imperative for businesses to understand the impacts and causes of absenteeism in order to spot problem areas and provide support to their employees.