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Four Ways to Reduce Absenteeism in the Workplace

By Tracey George MIRP on 29 Sep 2017

Last year, research by CIPD found that absenteeism annually costs the average UK business £522 per employee.

The literal definition of absenteeism is the act of intentional or habitual absence from work. Whilst employers expect a certain level of acceptable staff absence from work each year absenteeism refers to excessive or “non-genuine” absences which can have a very negative impact on both employers and employees in terms of finance, morale and productivity.

The cost to a business can be attributed to a number of factors including wages paid to absent employees, cost for replacement workers, and administrative costs. In addition absenteeism can indirectly impact employers by decreasing productivity and lowering morale. This is caused by understaffing, overtime fatigue, and inadequately trained employees acting as a replacement. Furthermore, this can also lead to poor quality goods or services, safety issues, and missed deadlines.

There are many causes for absenteeism. Some more legitimate than others and include:

  • Mental health

  • Bullying or harassment

  • Injuries, illness or medical appointments

  • Excessive stress, both personal or work related

  • Disengagement

  • Home or family responsibilities

  • Job hunting

  • Partial absence throughout the work day (lateness, going home early, going missing during a shift)

Absenteeism can be a challenge to tackle as it can be difficult to identify the legitimate reasons from the poor excuses. However, there are ways that employers can work towards reducing absenteeism, and we’ve listed our main four methods below:

1. Absence Management Policy
Start by having a comprehensive yet transparent policy in place to strategically deal with short term absences, habitual absences and long-term sickness, and ensure that all members of staff are aware and understand the protocol.

Install a system that records and monitors absences from work including sickness, training, holiday and both authorised and unauthorised absences. This will make trends of habitual absences easy for management to spot. This will then lead onto understanding the cause of the absenteeism among individual staff members.  


Being able to understand the reasons behind absences may undercover a failure or lack of control in an area that requires further action such as bullying, family or medical issues. These must then be dealt with in an empathetic, fair and consistent manner.

2. Promote Wellbeing
Employers could take a more proactive approach towards wellbeing - reducing the chances of absenteeism by ensuring staff are content and focusing on employees’ physical, psychological, environmental and financial health. Promoting wellbeing in these areas will reduce stress and disengagement, whilst also maintaining mental health.

A commitment to staff wellbeing leads to employees feeling valued, respected, and satisfied in their roles. This can lower staff turnover, boost productivity and reduce absenteeism.  

If you’re not sure how you can improve wellbeing consider an “idea bounty”. This is a concept where employees propose a realistic idea (including the process) to improve the workplace. Their co-workers vote on the concept and if the idea is voted in, approved and implemented, then the employee that came up with the idea receive a small bonus or prize.

3. Incentives
Incentives can help to lower employee absences. Businesses could reward high attendance in a variety of ways such as a prizes, gift cards, a pay bonus or even some time off.

If your business simply can’t afford to do this for everyone, consider implementing a raffle system, where one person out of a select group with the highest attendance can win a bonus.

4. Flexible Working
Flexible working can benefit both employers and employees, and reduce absenteeism. Under UK Law employees that have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks can have the right to request flexible working. An employer must deal with the request in a reasonable manner. However many employers choose to offer flexible options without the need for requesting them.

There are different ways of working flexibly including, but not limited to, working from home, compressed hours and flexitime.

Employees that have the flexibility to meet family and personal needs conveniently are much less likely to be absent from work on a regular basis. By reducing stress and pressure from responsibilities outside of work it reduces the chance of burnout and will improve the quality of their work.

It also demonstrates that as an employer you recognise and respect the differences in the personal lives of your workforce and that all staff are individuals who work most efficiently in different ways. This will boost morale, engagement and commitment to you business.

The bottom line is that occasional absences from work are inevitable, but absenteeism has the potential to be very costly to a business through lost productivity, wages, poor quality of work, excess management and administration time. It has the potential to cause a domino effect if not addressed effectively by putting pressure on staff that are present, which consequently lowers morale for them and therefore the issue escalates.

TPP will provide you with employees that not only have your required skill set for the role, but will recruit to fit your organisation’s culture. If you are looking for recruitment advice contact us on 020 7198 6000 or info@tpp.co.uk