Employee Absenteeism: Meaning, Features, Reasons, Effects

This blog consists of everything you need to know about employee absenteeism. Absenteeism, in simple terms, refers to the failure of an employee to report for duty when he is scheduled to work.

An employee’s presence at the workplace during the scheduled time is highly essential for the smooth running of an organization in general. Despite the significance of their presence, employees sometimes fail to report at work during their scheduled time, which is known as ‘absenteeism’. Absenteeism means an individual remains absent without any intimation to his superior. The issue of absenteeism and unscheduled leave has always been important to businesses and companies interested in their bottom line. Read this blog to find out more about Employee Absenteeism: Meaning, Features, Reasons and Effects.

What is Employee Absenteeism?

Employee Absenteeism is defined as the frequent absence of an employee from his/her work. This type of absence is often categorized as a habitual absence which excludes authorized leaves or paid time off.

Absenteeism is a universal phenomenon. The rate of absenteeism varies from month to month, from shift-to-shift, and day-to-day.

Features of Employee Absenteeism

Based on micro studies undertaken in different parts of the country these are some of the peculiar features of employee absenteeism:

1. Fluctuating Rate of Absenteeism

The rate of absenteeism is the lowest on payday; it increases considerably on the days following the payment of wages to bonuses.

The level of absenteeism is comparatively high immediately after payday; when workers either feel like spending a good time or in some other cases return home to their village to make purchases for the family or to meet them.

The incidence of absenteeism, both before and after any holiday, has also been found to be higher than that on normal days.

2. Type of Shift Affects Absenteeism

The percent of absenteeism is generally higher in the night shifts than in the day shifts. This is so because workers in the night shift experience greater discomfort to uneasiness in the course of their work then they do during day time.

3. Type of Industries Affects Absenteeism

The percentage of absenteeism is much higher in the coal and mining industries than in organized corporate industries. This high per­centage of absenteeism in the former industries is due to the engagement of laborers in their fields, or festivals, which together are estimated to account for about 75% of the cases of with­drawals, relaxation, or sickness.

4. Absenteeism according to the Months

Absenteeism in India is seasonal. It is the highest during March-April-May when the land has to be prepared for monsoon sowing and also in the harvest season (Sept.-Oct.) when the rate goes as high as 40 percent.

Whom does it affect — The Employers or The Employees?

Well, unscheduled and uncalled for absences from work affect both the employers and the employees.

Employers are often left understaffed in the workplace when employees start making an excessive amount of absences. It heightens employer’s liabilities in the form of additional workhour costs, but it also increases the workload on the remaining workforce which later turns up as workplace dissatisfaction and other such related issues.

For employees, apart from seeing a decrease in the salary, they tend to lose their value as a diligent member of the organization. And if these employees continue with their unscheduled absences they’ll most likely end up losing their jobs.

Causes of Employee Absenteeism:

Some causes of absenteeism are discussed as follows:

Lack of a Flexible Work Schedule

Flexible working has become a necessity rather than a privilege for professionals across companies. Employees have their own social and personal commitments which they have to abide by for enjoying a sound work-life balance.

Unhealthy Working Conditions:

If working conditions are not good then employees frequently absent themselves from work. Heat, noise, bad lighting, dust, over-crowding affect workers’ health causing them to remain absent for long periods.

Social and Religious Ceremonies:

Social and religious ceremonies are a major cause of absenteeism. Some studies have shown that the rate of absenteeism has been higher during festival periods as compared to other periods.

Time Theft

Absenteeism doesn’t always mean being absent for a whole day or two at the workplace. Employees taking long breaks, coming late, and leaving too early also implies absenteeism.

Inadequate Leave Facilities:

Sometimes the rural workers or laborers do not get proper facilities for attending to family work. Since they are entitled to a limited number of leaves, they do not go to work whenever they have to attend to family needs.


Absenteeism is higher among teenagers and old persons. Teenagers are sometimes casual in their work because of studies and old people exhaust after continuous work.

Management Systems:

When managers treat workers as mere tools, the rate of absenteeism is likely to be high. In the absence of proper management, workloads, shift arrangements, and personnel policies may be unbalanced causing absenteeism.

Rural Ties:

Some employees come from villages. They leave behind their families and relatives while coming to cities for work. They go to their villages for festivals, religious and social ceremonies, etc. This leads to a high rate of absenteeism.

How to Tackle Employee Absenteeism

1. Liberal Grant of Leave:

The strict and uncompromising attitude of management in granting leave may also lead to absenteeism. When there are urgent needs for leave and management is not responsive then the worker will remain absent for a long time. They may also try to get E.S.I. (Medical) leaves or half pay where they are entitled up to 56 days leave in a year. Management should be liberal in granting leave when workers have a genuine problem.

2. Workplace Surveys and Employee Opinions

Surveys and opinion are very important for solving problems. It is the foremost thing to do before heading towards a solution. Knowing how your employees think and feel about their work and their company would give you more insight into the reasons leading to absenteeism.

A tip here when conducting these surveys would be to ask questions which you think would be related to the issue like:

  • Daily commuting means.
  • Any issues they’re facing in the workplace.
  • About the work schedule.
  • Personal issues or Elderlies at home to take care of.
  • Any ongoing medication or health issues.
  • Job Satisfaction and so on.

3. Employee Wellness Programs

The rapid increase in workload on employees these days has made it almost impossible for them to spare some time for themselves. And in the long run, it leads the employees towards many health issues that affect their presence at work.

Employees’ are humans too, they fall sick, require time to rest, and also time to spend with their loved ones. It would also be wrong to say that an employee would be present at work all the time if everything at the workplace is set right. Reducing employee absenteeism is a long term process even with the right policies in place. Employers must make it a point to support their employees and their aspirations within the workplace. And if all the necessary steps are taken at the right time, then it will benefit both the employee and the employer.

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