The Serious Problem Of Absenteeism Management Essay

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Absenteeism is a very serious phenomenon around the globe. This research paper provides information about absenteeism at work and discusses the basic reasons and problem of workers that why do they prefer to absent from the work. It also suggests some measure and recommendations to make curtailment of absenteeism and improve the work quality.


Absenteeism is seen as a complex behavior worldwide for every institute which run by human work force and efforts. It is a serious workplace problem and an expensive occurrence for both employers and employees seemingly unpredictable in nature. Human resource is an important part of any business and managing them is an important task. Global business and corporate industries are bearing loss of billions of dollars every year due to mismanagement of Human Capital.

Purpose of the study

This study undertook to find out the problem of workers, why they prefer to absent from their works. Absenteeism is a serious issue of global world. This study aims to find out the problem of workers and why the prefer absent from their works. Why people do absent on the work is to provide prospectus to the problem and develop key recommendations that may be utilized by Human Resource Manager to reduce its financial costs and to significantly improve staffs attendance.


Absenteeism, according to Casio (2003), is "any failure of an employee to report for or to remain at work as scheduled, regardless of reason" (p. 45)

Kinds of Absenteeism

Generally absenteeism is divided into two parts

Physical Absenteeism

Functional Absenteeism

Physical Absenteeism

Generally in physical absenteeism, employees do not report to work when they are required to do.

It could be further divided into a) Voluntary and b) Involuntary.

In voluntary absenteeism, the situation is under the direct control of the employee. For instance the employee may choose to attend the office even though there is a marriage of his close relative or if he has to go for a health check up.

Involuntary absenteeism is viewed to be beyond the employees' immediate control. For instance if there is a major illness in his family he has no option but to attend to the patient

Functional Absenteeism

It generally occurs when the employees are present at work but are not productive, like taking lengthy tea breaks, arriving late or leaving early etc.

Causes of Absenteeism

Royal Commission Labour (RCL), a NGO in India surveyed that high absenteeism among Indian labour is due to rural orientation and their frequent urge for rural exodus. According to Acharaya "In modern industrial establishment the incidence of industrial fatigue, mal nutrition and bad working conditions aggravate that feeling for change among industrial worker and some time impel them to visit their village home frequently for rest and relaxation."

The general cause of absenteeism may be summarised as below:-


In factory the worker finds caught within factory walls, he is bewildered by heavy traffic, by strangers speaking different and subjected to strict discipline and is ordered by complete strangers to do things which he cannot understand. As a result he is under constant strain, which cause him serious distress and impairs his efficiency. All these factors tend to persuade him to maintain his contacts with village.


Social and religious ceremonies divert workers from workers to social activities. In large number of cases incidence of absenteeism due to religious ceremonies is more than due to any other reason.


Workers also experience housing difficulties. Around 95% of housing occupied by industrial workers in India is unsatisfactory for healthful habitations. This leads to loss the interest in work.


Low wages compel a worker to seek some part time job to earn some side income. This often result inconstant fatigue, which compels to remain absent for next day.


Irritating and intolerable working conditions exist in a factory. Heat, moisture, noise, vibration, bad lighting, dust fumes and overcrowding all these affect the workers health causing him to remain absent from work a long time.


High rate absenteeism is also due to lack of adequate welfare facilities Welfare activities include clean drinking water, canteen, room shelter, rest rooms, washing and bathing facilities, first aid appliances etc.


Some of the habitual drunkards spend whole of their salary during first week of each month for drinking purpose. Therefore 2 or 3 weeks after getting their salary absent themselves from their work.


All those workers who undergo financial hardships usually borrow money lenders at interest rate which are very high, which often cumulates to more than 11 - 12 times their actual salaries. To avoid the moneylenders they usually absent themselves from work because they are unable to return the money in stipulated time.


Due to favouritism and nepotism which are in the industry the workers generally become frustrated. This also results in low efficiency, low productivity, unfavourable relationship between employee and supervisor, which in turn leads to long period of absenteeism.


Negligence on part of the employee to provide leave facility compel the worker to fall back on ESI leave. They are entitled to 50 days leave on half on pay. Instead of going without pay the worker avail them of ESI facility

Loses due to Absenteeism

A number of loses occurs due absenteeism but key points loses are listed below

Additional manpower requirement

Lagging project schedules and revenue loss

Administrative costs to recruit and train new employees

Loss of efficiency due to new or inexperienced members

Underutilization of capital investments

Bottlenecks in work flow

Extra requirement of administrative time and resources.

Increased overtime and fatigue

Lower morale

Causes of Absenteeism










Absenteeism Control

There are two types of absenteeism and both need different approaches in order to be solved.

Innocent absenteeism: It is blameless as it is not under the control of the employees, like sickness and injury. Hence it cannot be treated by disciplinary measures. Whereas such employees can be counseled in order to get a clear view of the problems bothering them, and subsequently helping the employee out it. The employer should monitor his/her attendance regularly, and keep in touch as and when the need be.

Culpable absenteeism refers to employees being absent for work without authorization, for reasons within their control. For example, an employee who's on sick leave can be proved that he was not actually sick.

Measures to reduce culpable absenteeism

Initial warning(s)

Written warning(s)



Initial Warning is given to the employees to use income protection only when the illness is legitimate. The employee should be advised to improve his/her attendance record else disciplinary actions will be taken against him/her. Offer any counseling or guidance if need be.

Written Warning

Interview the employee and show him/her the statistics and identify the areas where no improvements have happened. Soon after the meeting is over personally provide the employee with a written warning.

If the pattern continues, the second step is a stronger second written warning. The decision of providing a second warning depends on factors like employee's length of service, general work performance, severity of the problem, credibility of the employee's


Suspension (after consulting with appropriate superiors)

The employee should be interviewed and advised that he's to be suspended if absenteeism persists following the next interview and an immediate absence. The length of suspension depends on employee's length of service, general work performance, severity of the problem, credibility of the employee's


Discharge (after consulting with appropriate superiors)

Dismissals should only be considered only after all the above procedures have been met. The employee may be dismissed on the grounds of not willing to correct his/her absence records.

This is your work

This is my work

Why measure absence?

A key element of managing absence effectively is accurate measurement and monitoring. An organisation must assess if it has a problem with absence, its extent and the best way to tackle it. In the latest CIPD absence survey, fewer than half of employers monitor the cost of absence, just under half of organisations have set a target for reducing absence and just 38% of organisations benchmark themselves against other employers.

Employers should collect and use data to identify particular patterns of absence and underlying causes, for example, the management style of a particular manager or an increase in workloads. It can also provide the board with evidence of how absence impacts on the bottom line and why it is worth investing in an effective absence management programme.

How to measure time lost

There are a number of measures that can be used to assess absence, each of which gives information about different aspects of absence.

'Lost time' rate

This measure expresses the percentage of total time available which has been lost due to absence:

Total absence (hours or days) in the period x 100

Possible total (hours or days) in the period

For example, if the total absence in the period is 124 person-hours and the total time available is 1,550 person-hours, the lost time rate is:

124     x 100 = 8 %


It can be calculated separately for individual departments of groups of employees to reveal particular absence problems.

Frequency rate


The method shows the average number of absences per employee, expressed as a percentage. It does not give any indication of the length of each absence period, nor any indication of employees who take more than one spell of absence:

No of spells of absence in the period x 100

No of employees

For example, if in one month and organisation employed on average 80 workers, and during this time there were a total of 16 spells of absence, the frequency rate is:

16 x 100 = 20%


By counting the number of employees who take at least one spell of absence in the period, rather than to total number of spells of absence, this calculation gives an individual frequency rate.

Bradford Factor

The Bradford Factor identifies persistent short-term absence for individuals, by measuring the number of spells of absence, and is therefore a useful measure of the disruption caused by this type of absence. It is calculated using the formula:

S x S x D

S = number of spells of absence in 52 weeks taken by an individual

D = number of days of absence in 52 weeks taken by that individual

For example:

10 one-day absences: 10 x 10 x 10 = 1,000

1 ten-day absence: 1 x 1 x 10 = 10

5 two-day absences: 5 x 5 x 10 = 250

2 five-day absences: 2 x 2 x 10 = 40

The trigger points will differ between organizations. As for all unauthorized absence, the underlying ca

Why Measure Absence?

'If you can't measure it, you can't manage it'.

(Susan R. Meisinger)

Employee absenteeism has multi dimensional effects on an organization. Organization has to pay in monetary and non-monetary form of compensation for employee absenteeism and in order to control that; measurement of absenteeism becomes a vital management task. Absenteeism can be managed through correct measurement and control. It is impossible to device effective management and control strategies until we measure the phenomena correctly. Measurement of absenteeism also enables organizations to find costs related with employee absenteeism and causes of absence. Managers can present these costs to the higher authorities and ask for policy reforms to best serve the interests of the organization. The significance of a well formulated and supervised skiving policy is vital when one deems the unfavorable effects of absenteeism on a business.

Measurement of Absenteeism

According to Gandz (1979: 531) management at an organization can measure absenteeism only if they can answer four questions and these are,

"How many days of potential production an organization is losing because of absenteeism"

"How widespread is absenteeism among the employees"

How often does malingering happen among the employees

How intense is malingering between the employees?

Once we have answered these questions we need to measure absenteeism at individual level and aggregate level.

How to manage Absenteeism

Employee absenteeism in any organization in any situation cannot be solved with a snap and there is no ready solution for the issue. It is important that we first look at the causes of the phenomena and deal with it accordingly. At Rolls Royce management first of all determine the causes of absenteeism. They came to know that sickness related absence is major source of absence related loss.

Steps in the Management of Absenteeism


Communication is an important part of controlling absenteeism. Usually organizations do not communicate with the employees about their absenteeism related policies that resulted in conflict between employee and employer. Organizations need to inform the employees about absence related policies. This will help organization to control absent related issues more effective. At Rolls Royce same policy was adopted by the higher management. Management at Rolls Royce informed the managers about the duties and responsibilities. Operational level managers were instructed to meet with workers who have recurring attendance issues and explained new policy to them. Rolls Royce kept record of those meeting and include any issue in the policy that can improve the employee's attendance.

Keep Precise Report

Keeping accurate data of every employee attendance is a complicated task but it bears huge benefits for the organizations. It can help organization to identify the pattern of absence and formulate policies accordingly (Bunning, 1988). For the Effective management Rolls Royce developed an automated IT system to keep the record of employee's attendance. This program helped Rolls Royce to monitor, identify patterns and finds costs related to absence.


Organizations should consult with the employees who take frequent leave and ask them for the reason. This element was also included at the Rolls Royce. Any employee who took more than four week leave was consulted by management and asked for the reasons. Accordingly appropriate steps (employees who presented medical related excuse were referred to doctors) were taken by the management. Management gave employees a sense of affiliation and motivation by giving medical consultation to employees who remained absent from work for more than four weeks. Employees were referred to physiotherapist for treatment and all expenses were born by the Rolls Royce.


To manage absenteeism management at Rolls Royce followed strict control and implementation strategy by specifying the concerned departments and individuals duties.

Controlling Absence through Motivation

"Motivation is an internal state that directs individuals toward certain goals and objectives" (FBT lectures notes, 2010).

Maslow theory of motivation has contributed abundantly in the management of absenteeism but it has been criticized because "need is not effective as a motivator until those before it in the hierarchy have been satisfied" (FBT lecture notes, 2010; Slide 19)

There can be two methods of controlling absenteeism, Reward system or punishment system. Each has its own implications for the organization. Some researchers believe that reward system can be more fruitful than punishment system (Bunning, 1988). Employees can be motivated through different methods to improve attendance. These includes monetary and non-monetary rewards e.g. A manufacturing firm in USA offered its employees non-monetary rewards and was able to improve attendance of the employees by 56%. In an example a contact lenses manufacturer in USA was able to made savings of US$ 165,000 by offering cash rewards for perfect attendance. However, Markowich (1993) revealed that monetary incentives do not motivate employees significantly as sick leave abusers prefer time off from job rather money. In this way money fails to motivate employees to improve their attendance records. Here, researchers believe that some strict control with reward is essential to reduce employee's absence to a accept level. A good example of this type of system is where an employer specifies the number of sick leave a person is entitled to and once that limit is reached and if employee continues with sick leave, employer can call explanation with issuance of warning. If such behavior continues after first warning employer can take strict action followed by termination from the job after meeting legal requirements. This system was implemented by Bradley Company in California in USA that resulted in unauthorized absenteeism by 85% (Stinson, 1991).

Can Organizations Control Absenteeism through Motivation Only

Organizations cannot control absenteeism only through motivation. There are two important factors that determine the employee attendance record and these are worker motivation to attend and Worker ability to attend (Steers and Rhodes, 1984). Employee might be motivated by monetary or non-monetary rewards and wants to be more punctual to secure reward but his circumstances might hinder his way e.g. transportation problem. Along with organizational and environmental factors, employee personal circumstances also determine the rate of absenteeism. Organizations can treat personal reasons for absence by offering flexible working hours as this policy provides inherited motivation to employees to adjust their personal commitments.

Role of Leadership in the Management of Absenteeism

Leaders or managers are considered role model for the employees and employees do not learn much from what leaders say but they are inspired by what the leaders do. A research conducted at a mobile phone company office in America to know the reason for high absenteeism revealed that employees took more leave because their Vice President used to work from at home. In this way it becomes extremely important that managers not only communicate the organization's policies to the employees but also become a role model by practicing that policy themselves.

Leadership Rolls Royce

Over the last year senior management at Rolls Royce drafted sickness absence management program and implemented this program successfully. According to HSE main reason for this successful implementation was commitment from HRM director of the Rolls Royce. Human Resource Management director showed his full cooperation by developing leadership style in the successful implementation of the program. To manage radical change and reshape new culture of attendance at Rolls Royce HRM director divide roles among the concerned managers. Small teams were developed under the leadership of motivators to achieve desired objectives.

Motivation at Rolls Royce through Employee Involvement

To ensure successful implementation management at Rolls Royce actively involved employees at different level and labor union in decision making when formulating sickness absence management program. To motivate employees Rolls Royce management not involved labor union at planning stage but also provide necessary training to deal with certain issues related with absence management.

As under the new contract employees were encouraged to utilize vacation times, this resulted in deterioration of excused absenteeism. Employees use vacation period without any notice where as they have to give prior notice for excused absence. Considering the dire consequences of the proposed policy organization management negotiated with the employees and abolished 'vacation day' mechanism. The organization made compulsory excellent attendance record for promotion or transfer to other departments. Beside this, organization also promised to offer £150 bonus every year for good attendance. The success of this policy become evident at the end of first year of policy implementation when 130 employees secure good attendance bonus compare to 30 staff had good attendance record. Successfully reduced unexcused absenteeism by 46% and excused absenteeism by 21% but on the other hand use of vacation time resulted in net working hours loss.

uses will need to be identified.