Absenteeism in the workplace – How much is it costing you?


Absenteeism in the workplace – employees taking off work due to sickness, holiday, or other such reasons, costs Australian businesses around $32.5 billion a year. Since 2010, the rate of absenteeism across the country has risen by 7%, with as much as 5% of the Australian workforce calling in sick on any given day. An unexpected employee absence can cost a business as much as $340 a day. If a rectifiable problem was costing you $340 a day, you’d want to fix it, right?

Absenteeism, much like many other workplace expenditure can be reduced, but it’s not something that many businesses ever seriously consider. As many as 3 out of 5 organisations do not record absences properly, with up to 25% of absences going completely unreported. How is your business managing employee absenteeism?

Absenteeism Costs

While there is an obvious financial detriment to employees taking unrecorded or unsubstantiated absences, it runs much deeper than that. When a person is absent from work, it significantly impacts customer service, sales, and staff management. The extra workload created by absenteeism falls on the remaining staff, resulting in higher stress levels, poor health outcomes and even greater absenteeism; a vicious cycle.

We’ve all been in that situation where a co-worker has unexpectedly called in sick and you’ve had to cover for them. While covering for someone who has a legitimate absence every once in a while is okay, it can become increasingly frustrating when someone habitually abuses the system. Reducing the amount of abuse suffered by your absence policy is one step, but you can also reduce legitimate absences by improving the wellbeing of your workforce, something that falls under the realm of an Injury Prevention Specialist.

Managing Employee Absenteeism

To help reduce employee absenteeism, we must first understand why employees take absences. Some of the common causes of absenteeism include:

Illness and injuryInjuries, illness and medical appointments are the most commonly reported reasons for missing work, though it is not always the actual reason. “Illness” is sometimes used as an excuse for one of the causes below.

Stress and depression – Heavy workloads, stressful meetings/presentations and feeling unappreciated can cause employees to avoid going into work. As many as one in five Australians have taken time off work in the past 12 months because they have felt stressed, depressed or mentally unhealthy.

Childcare and eldercare – Employees may be forced to miss work in order to stay home and take care of a child/elder.

Job hunting – Employees may call in sick to attend a job interview, visit with a headhunter or work on their resume/CV.

Bullying and harassment – Employees who are bullied or otherwise harassed by their co-workers or supervisors may take days off work simply to avoid these people.

So as you can see, reducing absenteeism goes much further than simply cracking down on people who take too many sick days – though having a centralised absence management monitoring system is certainly a good idea. Properly reducing absenteeism requires a much more holistic approach to health and wellness, something that the team at Bodycare are very passionate about. Unhappiness leads to unhealthiness, and often presents itself in the form of mental illness. Beyondblue’s state of mental health report found there was a disconnect between managers and the workforce on how well mental wellness was promoted within their organisations. The report, surveying more than 1,000 participants across Australia, found 71% of leaders believed they were committed to promoting the mental health of staff while only 37% of staff agreed with this. Long work hours and a lack of adequate work/life balance were to blame.

Having a Workplace Mental Health Training program shows your employees that you care about their mental health, which should hopefully reduce stress, depression and by association, absenteeism.

The other leading causes of absenteeism, such as job hunting, child care and bullying, can all be reduced by a change in corporate culture. Making the workplace a safe space for everyone will reduce bullying, while offering employees with children additional benefits or perks will reduce child care absences. Simply improving the atmosphere of your business should hopefully stop your employees taking time off to search for a new job!

Employee Absenteeism is A Problem that can be Solved

By now, you’ve hopefully got a better picture of the costs absenteeism is inflicting upon your company and some of the steps you can take to remedy them. One of the principal benefits of the many types of Health and Wellness programs that Bodycare offers is a reduction in absenteeism as we focus on preventing illness and injury before it happens. We know it can be done because we’ve done it before. Remember, every day you delay in fixing your company’s absenteeism issues could be costing you in excess of $340 per day per absent employee, so sooner is always better than later!