Workplace Absenteeism and Why You Need Absence Management Software.

15 November 2021
two coworkers in front of an empty desk

Employee absenteeism comes in many forms, and every employee has their own reason for staying away from work: some absences may be caused by an underlying health issue; others could be a sign that staff morale has taken a dive and needs addressing.

Whatever the reason for employee absence in the workplace, there are ways of managing it.

In this series of blogs, we’ll look at what absenteeism is and how absence management software can help you get on top of it.

We’ll also give you our tips on how to reduce absenteeism and we’ll explore the so-called Bradford effect.

What is absenteeism?

In simple terms, absenteeism is a member of staff not being present at work when they should be.

Absenteeism is different from absence, which means planned and/or agreed time off from work, such as holiday or other pre-agreed leave, like training, jury service or maternity/paternity leave.

It refers to absences going beyond what you as an employer would reasonably expect: you tolerate staff being away from time to time for the occasional sick day, home emergency or bereavement. But absenteeism is absence on a larger scale. It’s where the inconvenience of an employee being off work becomes a problem.

Long-term sickness, unexplained absences, regularly taking long breaks, persistent lateness or leaving work early – these are all examples of absenteeism. They will usually be a breach of the employee’s contract and could result in disciplinary action.

What is absence management?

Absence management is a way of tracking employees’ attendance through documenting the hours they work and recording their time off (paid/unpaid, planned/unplanned).

Many businesses use manual recording and paper-based solutions to manage absence and attendance, or basic software like spreadsheets.

But these low-tech solutions can result in data inaccuracies, and are not as efficient and simple to use as absence management software. This creates easy-to-access records and reports, and is ideal for businesses wanting to streamline processes, improve attendance and increase productivity.

Why is absence management important?

Good absence management and a clear policy setting out how to identify and tackle absenteeism has many potential benefits for your business:

  • It will help you root out and deal with the real problems behind staff absence.
  • By tackling absenteeism head-on you’ll protect your bottom line and keep your workforce operating efficiently.
  • You’ll avoid employee attendance becoming a chronic problem.
  • You’ll mitigate the risk of HR or legal consequences.

You may suspect an employee is skiving, or bad at managing their time. But what if there’s more to the absence than meets the eye. Could the worker be lacking motivation because of poor management? Are they the victim of bullying or harassment, meaning they’re too afraid to come into work?

Do they have a problem with their mental health and wellbeing? Has workplace stress triggered depression and anxiety? Maybe they have an undiagnosed long-term illness, which could be a disability.

Getting to grips with absenteeism at an early stage, and investigating the real reasons behind it, will help you discover whether you should be disciplining a malingering staff member, managing their performance, or helping them through an issue with their physical or mental health.

This is where effective absence management processes, supported by an absence management system can really give your business a competitive edge.

What causes absenteeism?

There are numerous reasons for staff being absent from work – from a day off with a cold to long-term absence for stress.

And in recent months, the impact of Covid-19 on workplace absence has been massive. A recent report revealed that in 2020, as a result of the pandemic, there was a 10% increase in mental health-related absences in the UK, which cost business £14bn – up £1.3bn on 2019 figures.

Here are some of the most common reasons for absenteeism:

  • Low motivation/disengagement – your employees may be losing their mojo. Is it time to motivate, challenge and enthuse them? Have they been stuck in the same role for too long? Is their pay falling behind the competition? Show them some love: it could be time to lay on some after-work drinkies or a team go-karting day!
  • Sickness and injury – the Covid-19 virus played a major part in raising sickness levels. Even without the contribution of the pandemic, sickness has always been one of the major players in absenteeism, causing a major headache for employers, particularly over whether to supplement meagre statutory sick pay levels.
  • Family issues, childcare etc – in workplaces that don’t allow flexible working , parents can’t manage childcare and other family responsibilities. So they may resort to taking unauthorised time off.
  • Bullying/harassment at work – persistent malicious treatment from colleagues, customers or suppliers can push an employee to breaking point. If they feel they can’t stop the ill-treatment by getting help from within the organisation, the solution is often to stay away from work.
  • Poor management – losing faith in the boss can lead to a loss of faith in the business, leading to a loss of motivation and increased skiving.
  • Workplace stress – too much work, not enough support, too few resources. Unmanaged stress can lead to burn-out and staff members going off on long-term sick leave.
  • Mental health issues – problems at home and/or an unhealthy work environment, can create or exacerbate poor mental health. Actively supporting staff with employee counselling services, health insurance and gym memberships can help reduce absenteeism levels.

How do you know if you have an employee attendance problem?

Without having a foolproof system in place to record attendance and monitor absence, you’ll find it hard to keep track of who’s away, when, how often and for what reason. Which means you’ll have a problem you don’t know about and can’t solve!

Left unchecked, absenteeism can have an awful effect on the morale and welfare of other employees, as well as losing your business money on replacement labour cost and decreased productivity.

Good absence management software can help you identify and deal with absenteeism. Thinking Software’s RotaOne time and attendance software includes an efficient absence management component enabling you to take control of all forms of planned and unplanned absences.

With RotaOne, if there’s a problem with employee attendance, you’ll know about it, and, with the software’s help, you’ll have the policies and strategies in place to find a positive solution, improve attendance and boost productivity.

Here are some examples of RotaOne’s absence reports:

Lateness & Early Leaving

Lateness and early finish

No Shows



Absence Report

How to use absence management software to reduce absences.

The idea behind absence management software is to make staff attendance and absence visible.

By converting from existing manual systems (or by integrating absence management with your existing time and attendance solutions), you’ll instantly know if there’s an issue.

And you’ll have the evidential data you need to help you work with the employee to improve the situation and find a solution.

This is a much more effective way to manage absenteeism than resorting to disciplinary action. But if that does prove necessary, the software gives you a robust evidence-base to support any action you decide to take (warning/dismissal etc).

So how do you reduce absenteeism?

We’ve put together our seven tips for reducing absenteeism in your business.

However, tips without action aren’t going to solve the problem, so if you want to get on top of your absenteeism issues today, book an appointment to learn more about how our time and attendance solutions.