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Strategies to reduce employee absenteeism and enhance retention

There are various types of employee absenteeism that create problems for many companies today. And employees who are absent from the workplace cost the company money. How can we reverse the situation? In this blog post you will read the strategies to reduce employee absenteeism.

Finding the source of the problem is an important part of resolving it. Human resources
departments must be able to closely monitor absences, and analyse the cause of each and every one. There are many reasons why an employee may miss work, but it’s vital to detect how many of these absences the company could have avoided.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the keys to reducing employee absenteeism:


What is employee absenteeism?


Employee absenteeism is when a member of staff is absent from the workplace during a
normal working day. This includes voluntary absenteeism, whether authorised or not, once it has exceeded a certain number of hours. Exemptions exist when an employee is exercising a legal right, or where the absence derives from special circumstances.

The term absence rate corresponds to the percentage of hours not worked (excluding annual leave, bank holidays, etc.) with respect to normalworking hours. The national absence rate in the UK stood at 2% in 2018 (according to the Office for National Statistics report on sickness absence in the UK labour market 2018) meaning that each employee missed an average of 4.4 days of work that year. This fluctuates from sector to sector.

Whilst this has decreased in recent years, absenteeism is still a problem for companies and for the UK economy as a whole. Workplace absence is estimated to cost the UK economy around £21 billion by 2020. If we also consider loss of productivity due to presenteeism, this figure could rise up to a staggering £77.4 billion.



reduce employee absenteeism



Strategies for companies to reduce employee absenteeism


As we mentioned earlier, understanding the cause is vital to combatting employee
absenteeism. A report by Randstad sets the average annual cost of absence, per employee per year, at £522. This figure varies depending on the sector, and a CIPD report in 2016 found that public sector absenteeism stood at 8.6 days per employee, in contrast to only 5.2 days per employee.

What can we do about it? Whilst it’s not easy to avoid employee absenteeism, we can take a series of measures to ensure that employees are satisfied and won’t want to miss work, except under exceptional or authorised circumstances.



1. Increase employee visibility about their authorised and unauthorised absences


Technology enables us to easily monitor employee absences, and in real time. The human
resources department only needs to record absences, authorised or unauthorised, and you can see behavioural histories, absence trends, etc.

The advantage of this kind of software lies in the ability to share information with employees, so that they can see the days they’ve missed work for themselves. Being able to visualise this data will enable them to make better decisions when the time comes.


2. Reward the lack of unjustified absences


Rewards always work better than sanctions, so create some form of acknowledgement for
employees that have no unjustified absences throughout the year. It’s one way of motivating employees and stimulate the kind of behaviour we would like. The reward doesn’t necessarily have to be a financial one and there are several alternatives: a shop voucher, experiences, an extra day off, etc.


3. Foster a culture of teamwork


A sense of belonging, and especially being part of a team, increases employee commitment to the company. They will be more motivated going to work and will also think twice about missing work so as not to leave their team “in the lurch.”

Perform team building activities that will strengthen bonds and help team members to feel more comfortable and motivated. Why not organise team gymkhanas, for example, or go paintballing or wine tasting?


4. Invest in happiness


The best incentive to go to work every day is motivation, well-being... so invest in your
employees’ happiness. There are many ways of doing this:


  • Flexible working hours, telecommuting or remote working facilitate their work-life
  • Training or academic studies for staff.
  • Employee development programmes.
  • Leisure or relaxation zones in the office.
  • Internal communication systems through which employees can make suggestions,
    report problems, etc.


Don’t underestimate the power of the emotional salary and create a pleasant and motivating workplace ambience.


5. Look after employee health


Sickness due to minor illnesses is one of the main reasons for employee absence in the
workplace. You can reduce this rate by making employee health a priority. Believe it or not, there’s a lot you can do for them.


  • Make sure you fulfil occupational safety regulations.
  • Offer them free water, herbal teas and fruit to ensure they are always well-nourished
    and hydrated.
  • Encourage them to disconnect outside normal working hours to help them relax.
  • Promote sports through activities organised by the company or dedicated exercise
    zones within the office building.
  • Establish agreements with medical insurance companies to offer your employees
    access to private medical care at discounted prices.

Types of employee absenteeism in the UK


There are different types of absenteeism in the UK. All of them have a negative effect on productivity so it’s important to monitor each one and create strategies to reduce them:


1. Authorised absenteeism


This is the most common of all and where we see more examples of employee absenteeism every day. In this case, employees inform the company of the reason for their absence from the workplace.

This section includes all types of absences, even when authorised, that are not covered by legislation or collective agreements (death or hospitalisation of a close family member, etc.).

We must also distinguish between paid authorised leave and leave that, even though it may not be an infringement, is unpaid because the employee did not provide a service to the company during the period.

In addition, it’s worth pointing out that absences, even when they are both paid and
authorised, can provide reasons to terminate a contract when they exceed a certain level of absenteeism during a specified period.


2. Unauthorised absenteeism


In this scenario, the employee is absent from work without informing the company or the
reason is not sufficiently justified. They are therefore not fulfilling their obligations and could be subject to sanctions depending on the severity of the situation or number of days they have not been at work.

This section also includes job abandonment without prior notice. To consider it as such, it
must be concluded that the employee intended to terminate the working relationship and it
was a prolonged period of absence.


3. Presenteeism


This is somewhat more complicated as the employee is at work but is not engaged and is less productive, for a variety of reasons. A recent study revealed that 80% of British workers, for example, continued to work when they are sick. It’s a situation that’s difficult to measure and justify and is therefore one which companies need to pay greater attention to. Presenteeism is estimated to cost the UK economy £15.1 billion a year.


4. Mental health presenteeism


A growing number of employees continue to work with mental health issues, meaning that
they are physically present at work, but their mind is not. This usually occurs when an
employee doesn’t identify with the corporate culture, has lost motivation, is experiencing
burnout, stress or has personal problems.


Which types of absence are not classed as absenteeism?


The Working Time Regulations recognises certain circumstances that are not considered as absenteeism. All such cases involve the employee’s legal right to take leave and other special circumstances. For example: holidays, circumstances established by law or by collective agreement.

Other situations protected by law include maternity/paternity/adoption leave, sickness leave for minor illnesses, working accidents, time off for family and dependants, time off to deal with trade union activities, etc.


Technology, the best solution to reduce absenteeism


One solution to reduce employee absenteeism is the use of IT systems that enable you to
manage and monitor absences. Employees can easily request leave and inform their managers about which days they will be absent from their workstation.

Absence software also makes the human resources department’s job easier and enables you to apply preventive measures. If you detect patterns and trends concerning a particular team or employee, for example, you can apply measures that will help solve the problem. With all this information in your hand, reducing employee absenteeism becomes so much easier.

Kenjo is a software that is specifically designed for human resources departments and gives you, among other features, the ability to monitor employee absences. You’ll be able to:


  • Assign absences and distinguish them with a colour system.
  • Make the reason for absence public or private.
  • Receive authorisations from employees on the same platform.
  • Approve their days of absence with just one click.
  • Store authorisations sent by employees in the cloud.
  • Visualise a department’s absences and annual leave in one calendar.
  • Consult an employee’s absence history.
  • Obtain automated reports with your company’s absence rate.
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