Top 7 Causes of Absenteeism

Sick female employee
Did you know that a single absent worker costs a business as much as
$340 per day?

With a total of about 6.1 million working days lost in New Zealand, the cost to the economy is an estimated $1billion. In Australia, with 92 million working days lost per year, the loss increases to a staggering $33billion.

Therefore, with heightened absenteeism levels, it is vital for businesses to understand the reasons their employees miss work. Although absenteeism may be caused by an employee’s personal situation, it may also be indicative of a deeper workplace-related issue…

If absenteeism is a real issue for your business, load this up to read next: Is absenteeism an employee problem or a cultural one.

Here are the top 7 causes of absenteeism that you will need to understand before you can address the issue:

What Is Absenteeism?

Absenteeism is an employee’s habitual absence from work either by missing a full day of work or through time theft (showing up late to work, leaving early, or taking long breaks).

How Is It Impacting Businesses?

Apart from the substantial financial cost to the economy, the company itself bears a heavy loss in the form of lost productivity, company benefits, replacement costs, and lost revenue.

It can also be demoralising for the other team members and work staff who are given additional workload which was meant to be completed by the absent worker. Low morale amongst the team can adversely affect productivity and profitability.

Frequent absenteeism can also cause conflict within teams and with management due to inefficient completion of work and missing deadlines.

 Click here to subscribe

Causes of Absenteeism

1.    Illness/Injury

From less severe illnesses like cold and flu, to serious ones like chronic back problems, there are a number of reasons why an employee may be physically unable to come in to work.These reasons are usually unavoidable. However, factors in our work environment like stress, poor ergonomic design, or low employee support may also heavily contribute to these illnesses. If the work environment itself causes an employee discomfort, they are less likely to want to come in to work. The result? Extra workload that falls on other staff, increasing their risk of stress, health issues, and consequently absenteeism. A vicious cycle.

2.    Family care

Employees with elders or children to care for may find it difficult to come in to work on time, or give prior notice if they need to take time off in case normal care arrangements fall through. Some workplaces allow employees with dependents a certain degree of flexibility to work from home, thus alleviating their worry. This flexibility also ensures lower productivity losses as the employee will still be working and completing tasks.

3.    Bullying

Research suggests that bullying costs employers 18 million work days per year. People tend to take leave from work if they’re being bullied or harassed at work. They do this to avoid the situation or deal with their distress at being harassed.

4.    Burnout

Employees that are overworked or have heavy workloads may be fatigued and overwhelmed with deadlines. This causes burnout, which not only lowers productivity and increases stress, but it also leads to people avoiding work and calling in sick, as their bodies are unable to keep up with growing demands.

5.    Disengagement and low morale

Feelings of dissatisfaction with the job and low morale may lead employees to be demotivated to go in to work. These people tend to be disengaged from their work, and often feel underappreciated. Their dissatisfaction could be related to the work environment, professional relationships, their role at the company, or even their career path.

6.    Mental distress

One of the less obvious causes of absenteeism is mental distress. A range of factors such as workplace or personal stress, depression, anxiety- could lead to an employee being detached, and unable to cope with work and workplace interactions.

7.    Inflexibility

Employees with family to care for may value a flexible work schedule where they’re allowed to work from home. Flexible working hours would alleviate stress and increase productivity by allowing them to fulfill work and personal commitments at the same time. In fact, some businesses proactively encourage employees to take ‘mental health days’ when they are unwell or distracted by personal issues.



Overall, 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. To learn more on how to build a work culture that your workers love being a part of, take a look at ‘What is Absenteeism and How Can You Address It?’

Where To Next? 

Comments are closed.