• Legal, 
  • Performance Management, 
  • Retention

  July 12, 2016

Absenteeism: Have the Presence of Mind to Control It

When you have an employee, there is an inherent agreement between the two of you. It states that the employee will come to work when scheduled and perform specific tasks to satisfaction. As the employer, you will provide safe working conditions and pay fairly for their labour. Whether written in a contract or not, this agreement constitutes an obligation that both parties must adhere to. Each must respect the other and fulfil the terms that have been agreed upon. Often, an employee who is dissatisfied with their place of work, or feeling over-worked or under-appreciated, will start missing shifts or arriving late on a regular basis.

3 min read


Absenteeism is a substantial problem that costs businesses enormously. When an employee is routinely away from work, it has a detrimental effect on your organization. Some of the ways you are impacted are:

  • Lower productivity (by nature of the absence), resulting in lost revenue or lower profits
  • Higher costs, as a result of possible overtime pay for other employees on shift
  • Overworked employees, who may be stretched too thin when picking up the slack of an absent colleague. This lowers their own efficiency and productivity.
  • Lower staff morale, as team members begin to resent those who are away or management for not doing anything about it. This in turn is a key factor in overall disengagement and is likely to prompt additional absenteeism.

It’s therefore crucial that you address absenteeism. If you let it slide, not only will your business experience lost productivity and profit, but also you will be sending a message to other staff that absenteeism will be tolerated.


It’s important to note there are two types of absenteeism.

  • Innocent or “non-culpable” absenteeism: exists when absences are due to something beyond the employee’s control. Most often, the reason is illness or injury. Your best bet to minimize this is to provide a healthy work environment.
  • At-fault or “culpable” absenteeism: exists when an employee does not come to work despite being fully able to do so. This usually stems from low employee morale or employee engagement problems, where staff are simply not motivated by or interested in the work they are performing and decide not to come in. This is where the real problem lies, and you must examine ways you can stop this from happening.


Before you lash out at absentee employees for their lowly work ethic, stop and consider the role you might have in creating the problem. Poor working conditions and physical surroundings, low job satisfaction and high workload all lead to absenteeism. It’s true, skipping shifts is not an appropriate response, but it’s possible you may be provoking this behaviour by your own actions. Having hired the wrong staff may also contribute to absenteeism as they may not have been suited to the expectations of the position or your business.

If the employment relationship is being affected by any of the above mentioned problems, employees won’t feel compelled to successfully perform their job. Employees who feel they’re being treated unfairly will become disengaged, and might not contribute as much as before. More overtly, they may choose to be absent. Disgruntled staff who are overworked or underpaid may feel justified in missing shifts.

Here are some things you can ask yourself about the work environment you’re providing:

  • Do I always treat employees in a manner they would consider appropriate?
  • Do I communicate expectations and news involving staff?
  • Do I acknowledge the contributions my employees make?
  • Do I address problems in a timely manner?
  • Do I provide performance reviews and salary increases or bonuses on time?
  • Do I always pay overtime to those who have earned it?
  • Have I provided adequate resources to get the job done?
  • Am I fair and equitable in dealing with employees?

If you answered “no” to any of the above, you may want to make some changes to your management style to help improve attendance. If you feel that you have taken all the appropriate steps in creating an environment that supports good attendance, do what is in the best interest of your business and its productivity. Absenteeism is important to address for the well-being of your business. Decreasing absenteeism, and therefore increasing employee attendance, will increase productivity and profit, not only of that individual employee but of the entire team. Remember to create a sense of accountability towards absenteeism for both yourself and the employee.

go2HR is BC’s tourism and hospitality , human resources and health & safety association driving strong workforces and safe workplaces that deliver world class tourism and hospitality experiences in British Columbia. Follow us on LinkedIn or reach out to our team.