Absenteeism in the workplace

There are ways to help your staff manage their absenteeism

How do you define absenteeism? For us at BrightHR, absenteeism in the workplace is where an employee frequently doesn't turn up for work, to the point where a pattern emerges.

Tracking employee absenteeism can be hard. Each employee might have a different reason each time they're absent.

Here's a handful of the most common reasons:

  • Problems with sorting childcare.
  • Accidents.
  • Sickness.
  • Bullying.
  • Bereavement.

And here are some ways you can help your staff when they're off for any of these reasons.

Tips to reduce absenteeism:

Train middle management

Firstly, make sure that all team leaders have a full understanding of your company's absence management policy and its procedures. You should give them training on how to conduct an effective return-to-work interview, in which they offer empathy and support to the returning staff member. The team leader then reports the interview to senior management.

The employee might be returning to work after a physical injury, which could require you to complete a full risk assessment of the workplace. Or they might be coming back to work with fears that bullying targeted at them will continue.

Make staff aware of your policies

An employee absenteeism policy should tell your staff what they need to do when they're going to be off work. Include the policy in your company's staff handbook, and always email your staff when you update your policies so that everyone has the latest version.

Always refer to your policies when dealing with an issue in your workplace.

Address common absences to reduce your absenteeism rate:

Problems with childcare

So, you've noticed that one of your employees is absent regularly. Upon their last return-to-work interview, they reported that they're struggling with childcare. What can you do?

Many businesses now give their staff vouchers for childcare. Other bosses have added on-site creche facilities. 


Accidents happen. Falling down your staircase in the morning, a car crash that wasn't your fault, spilling boiling water on your hand—there are all sorts of accidents that could happen and keep somebody off work for a day or more.

Do you offer private medical care to your staff? If you don't right now, would your budget let you?

Your staff would be able to access specialist medics and receive treatment quicker than if they had to spend four hours in A&E. They'll thank you for it afterwards, and you'll be able to rest easy knowing that your employees are recovering.

You shouldn't overlook this perk when you're trying to offer someone a competitive benefits package during recruitment.


Everyone gets ill. And, of course, some people are ill more than others. While this might frustrate you as an employer, you can at least try to promote wellbeing.

Vouchers for chemists or drugstores is one method—for some people, a multivitamin and some Omega-3 would give their immune system a boost. Another option is to include a guide to healthy eating in your staff handbook. If you're feeling generous, provide staff with vouchers for eateries that specialise in non-processed, salad-rich lunches.

You should also give staff information about healthy sleep routines, and make it clear that turning up to work under the influence of alcohol is not something that you'll tolerate.


Conflict is inevitable in a workplace. But you and your management team should champion your company's policies on harassment and bullying. Both of which you must have zero tolerance of.

Make it clear in your policies how staff should report instances of bullying or harassment, against themselves or someone else.


Staff will have to take time off when someone close to them dies. Some companies offer contingency benefits like five days' paid leave for bereavement situations.

Disciplinary procedure for absenteeism

If one of your staff has been off a lot lately, your first move should be an informal chat to find out why.

After that, you might move on to an informal warning, before a first written warning. If their absenteeism persists, you should consider a final warning letter for absenteeism.

If you do need to write one of your staff a warning, you can use our free warning letter template.

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