How to Prevent Absenteeism in Your Enterprise


Absenteeism is a major problem in many enterprises in the United Kingdom.  Nearly every business has felt the cost of employee absenteeism to a greater or lesser degree, causing workplace disruptions, loss of productivity and a subsequent loss of revenues.  UK businesses lose about forty million days each year to absenteeism(source:  The cost for UK industry is staggering: £11.5 billion was paid in wages to absent employees, or paid for temporary staff or overtime for absent employees, in 2002. 

There are many ways of preventing absenteeism.  Of the forty million days each year lost to absenteeism, over thirteen million are caused by common mental health issues, including stress, anxiety and depression.  While not all mental health issues are preventable by employers, enterprises can mitigate the cost by providing appropriate resources to employees to deal with such issues.  An employee assistance program that offers face to face or telephone counselling to employees on a confidential basis can provide a needed outlet and source of information to suffering employees.  While such plans do have an up-front cost to employers, they typically save money in the long run from decreased absenteeism and turnover.  

Employers can also be proactive in resolving workplace issues that cause stress and in turn encourage absenteeism and eventual turnover.  Chronic absenteeism on a departmental or enterprise level can often indicate burnout or workplace issues, rather than a problem with individual employees.  Employees that are suffering from excessive workloads are an obvious target, but there are other factors that can create chronic stress, such as lack of communication in the workplace, multiple supervisors, conflicting job requirements, unclear job responsibilities, lack of autonomy, and micromanagement 

Interpersonal problems such as office politics or even bullying can cause stress and anxiety.

At an enterprise-wide level, fear of redundancies, lack of promotion potential, and lack of technological or financial support can also create problematic stress levels.  To combat this, savvy employers will create open door policies to encourage employees to come forward regarding workplace problems.  Counselling and mediation may also be helpful in dealing with such issues. 

Employees also tend to take sickies due to physical and health issues.  While some, such as colds and flu, cannot be wholly prevented, employers can reduce their impact on the workplace through sensible policy.  Encouraging sick employees to stay home rather than creating a job environment where staff is pressured to attend despite illness can often facilitate less sick days, not more.  Further, even simple steps such as encouraging frequent hand washing and providing hand sanitizer to employees can reduce illness.  Further, other health issues can be caused by workplaces themselves.  Hiring a qualified ergonomist may help in preventing absenteeism due to complaints like back pain, as well as the added benefit of increasing morale and increasing employee productivity?

 There are many steps available to prevent absenteeism, but the best first step is to carefully analyse the environment and to find out the root causes of absenteeism.  Once that is established, creating an action plan to prevent the common causes can pay off for any enterprise.

Richard Reid is the founder of Pinnacle Proactive, Specialising in theEmployee Assistance ProgramStress ManagementStaff Retention & Absenteeism. Take a Proactive Approach to Growing Your Organisation & its People. For more info visit



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