How to deal with staff absenteeism

Excessive absences can equate to decreased productivity and can have a major effect on company finances and morale as well as other factors. Although only a small number of people typically do it, it’s left to the diligent staff to pick up the pieces. There are ways to prevent and reduce it – but it has to be addressed in a fair and consistent manner.

Record it

Record absences and highlight any issues to managers and supervisors. The quicker you alert your managers, the quicker they can deal with it.

Consider the causes

It’s important to work out what is causing an employee to be habitually absent from work. Depression is one of the main causes of absenteeism. The employee might be being bullied or harassed at work or they might be burnt out and stressed. They may be applying for other jobs and attending interviews. Chronic illness and injury are also causes of absenteeism. Some companies implement employee wellness programmes to prevent absenteeism. These may be expensive to implement and maintain but they can have a positive effect on a company’s bottom line.

Increase flexibility

Allowing employees more control over their work hours and introducing flexi-time or the opportunity to work from home occasionally is guaranteed to reduce absenteeism.

Be approachable

Do your employees get quiet and look intimidated whenever you walk by? If they do, you need to make some changes. It’s important that employees feel they can address any issues with you that may result in absenteeism. Leave your office door open and show an interest in your employees’ lives. A simple ‘Good morning, how was your weekend?’ can work wonders in making an employee feel that you care about them.


In an effort to reduce absenteeism, some companies offer incentives for going to work. These could be in the form of earned time off or bonuses for workers who have not been absent within a certain period of time.

Absence policy

Implement and rigidly enforce an absence policy. It needs to be monitored and enforced quickly, consistently and fairly to curb unscheduled absence and unauthorised sick days.

Be realistic

Sometimes people really do need to take some time out that simply cannot be planned. Allow staff to take a maximum number of days each year at short notice. You will get more out of your employees in the long run.
For more employer advice, see the Page Personnel Employer Resource Centre.