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Workplace Absenteeism

According to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian worker was away from work for the equivalent of almost two weeks in a year. Those 9.3 days lost translate to 2.4% of gross annual payroll, or $16.6 billion for Canadian employers. For most businesses, casual absences account for 80% of these lost days and more often than not, these absences are not supported by any sort of medical note.


In addition to the immediate effects of lost productivity there are other indirect costs as well including a lag in customer service, loss of sales and diminishing morale – especially when other employees may be forced into taking on a greater workload. While 52% of employers mention having some sort of program in place to track employee absence, only 32% of respondents actually work with their carrier or consultants to analyze this data and one third of those develop goals to improve absenteeism.

There are many factors that lead to a large amount of workplace absenteeism including:

•   Actual physical or mental illness.

•   An unhealthy lifestyle.

•   The need to care for family members.

•   Personal emotional issues.

•   Problems in the workplace, causing avoidance or stress-related illness.

•   Lack of understanding of sick leave policies.

•   Low job satisfaction and disengagement.

•   Low quality of life in economic, social, and physical terms.

Some tips to prevent workplace absenteeism include:

A Clearly Defined Attendance Policy.

Ensure that employees have a clear understanding of expectations relating to attendance. Make sure these employees are aware of the proper protocols regarding an absence including, who they need to notify, how soon they need to do so by, and what happens if they do not comply.

Wellness Programs.  

Many cases of workplace absenteeism could be avoided through the use of a comprehensive wellness program. These programs encourage both physical and mental health, sometimes through incentives and can provide support for a number of issues and out-of-office stressors which may be affecting productivity and creating situations where employees feel the need to simply not show up to work.

Flexible Hours/Accommodating Workplace.

By giving an employee the option to work from home or take off a few hours for a family emergency they may be more likely to complete work on their own terms or make up this lost time at a later date. By being flexible with your employee’s schedule, employers are conveying trust in their employee’s ability to still accomplish required tasks — a level of trust that is often reciprocated and can lead to a tighter bond within an organization.

It is also important to evaluate an employee’s work environment after an extended period of absence and recognize any adjustments that may be necessary to help ease this transition.

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