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Employee Absenteeism


Everything you need to know about employee absenteeism. Absenteeism, in simple terms, refers to failure of an employee to report for duty when he is scheduled to work.

It is an unauthorized absence from the workplace. Absenteeism refers to unauthorised absence of the employee from his job.

According to the Indian Factories Act, 1948, “Absence is the failure of an employee to report for work on duty when he is scheduled to work on his duty. An employee is to be considered as scheduled to work when the employer has work available” for him and the employee is aware of it.


An employee is to be treated as absent for purpose of these absenteeism statistics even when he does not turn-up for work after obtaining prior permission.

Any employee who reports for duty even for a part of the day or shift should not be counted among absentees. The statistics relate to only voluntary absenteeism defined as absence due to reasons which are personal to the individuals concerned.

As such, absence of an employee on account of strike or lock­out or lay off, that is involuntary absence, is not considered as absence for purpose of these absenteeism statistics.

Learn about:-


1. Meaning of Employee Absenteeism 2. Definition of Employee Absenteeism 3. Features 4. Factors Affecting 5. Types 6. Categories

7. Investigation Procedure 8. How to Calculate Employee Absenteeism Rate? 9. Causes 10. Adverse Effects 11. Consequences 12. How to Minimize Employee Absenteeism? (Measures).

Employee Absenteeism: Meaning, Definition, Features, Types, Calculation, Causes, Effects and Other Details


  1. Meaning of Employee Absenteeism
  2. Definition of Employee Absenteeism
  3. Features of Employee Absenteeism
  4. Factors Affecting Employee Absenteeism
  5. Types of Employee Absenteeism
  6. Categories of Employee Absenteeism
  7. Investigation Procedure of Employee Absenteeism
  8. How to Calculate Employee Absenteeism Rate?
  9. Causes of Employee Absenteeism
  10. Adverse Effects on Employee Absenteeism
  11. Consequences of Higher Degree of Employee Absenteeism
  12. How to Minimize Employee Absenteeism? (Measures)

Employee Absenteeism – Meaning

Employee Absenteeism, in simple terms, refers to failure of an employee to report for duty when he is scheduled to work. It is an unauthorized absence from the workplace.


Employee Absenteeism refers to unauthorised absence of the employee from his job.

In India the problem of absenteeism is greater than other coun­tries. When the employee takes time off, on a scheduled working day with permission, it is authorised absence. When he remains absent without permission or informing, it is wilful absence without leave.

In these days when the needs of the country require greater emphasis upon increase of productivity and the economic and rational utilisation of time and materials at our disposal, it is necessary to minimise absenteeism to the maximum possible extent.

Absenteeism is higher among women workers and among work­ers who live away from the place of work.

Employee Absenteeism – Defined by Indian Factories Act, 1948 and Webster’s Dictionary

The regularity and stability of the labour force plays an important role in the prosperity and development of an industrial unit. But an unfortunate feature in the industrial life of our country is the high rate of labour turnover and absenteeism. Statistical data have proved that the loss on account of absenteeism is more than of industrial disputes or any other problem. Thus, the problem of absenteeism is more serious threat than any other industrial problem.

Absenteeism means a condition where a employee keeps himself away from the work without any notice. Statistical data of absenteeism in our country are compiled and submitted on the basis of definition of absenteeism as given in Indian Factories Act, 1948. According to this Act, “Absence is the failure of an employee to report for work on duty when he is scheduled to work on his duty. An employee is to be considered as scheduled to work when the employer has work available” for him and the employee is aware of it.

Absenteeism at the operative level is a crucial problem in some industries. Absenteeism is unauthorized absence from workplace. According to Webster’s Dictionary, “absenteeism is the practice or habit of being an absentee and an absentee is one who habitually stays away.”

Absenteeism is universal phenomenon. The rate of absenteeism varies from month to month, from shift to shift, and from day to day.

An employee is to be treated as absent for purpose of these absenteeism statistics even when he does not turn-up for work after obtaining prior permission. Any employee who reports for duty even for a part of the day or shift should not be counted among absentees. The statistics relate to only voluntary absenteeism defined as absence due to reasons which are personal to the individuals concerned. As such, absence of an employee on account of strike or lock­out or lay off, that is involuntary absence, is not considered as absence for purpose of these absenteeism statistics.


Absenteeism is measured in the form of rate of absenteeism. The rate of absenteeism is a percentage of mandays lost due to Absenteeism during a particular period to the total of corresponding mandays.

Employee Absenteeism – 4 Peculiar Features

On the basis of micro studies undertaken in different parts of the country these are some of the peculiar features of employee absenteeism:

(a) The rate of absenteeism is the lowest on pay day; it increases considerably on the days following the payment of wages to bonus.

The level of absenteeism is comparatively high immediately after pay day; when workers either feels like having a good time or in some other cases return home to their village to make purchases for the family or to meet them.


The incidence of absenteeism, both before and after a Holiday, has also been found to be higher than that on normal days.

(b) The per cent of absenteeism is generally higher in the night shifts than in the day shifts. This is so because workers in the night shift experience greater discomfort to uneasiness in the course of their work then they do during day time.

(c) The percentage of absenteeism is much higher in coal and mining industries than in organized industries. This high per­centage of absenteeism is due to the engagement of labourers in the fields, marriages or festivals, which together are estimated to account for about 75 per cent of the cases of with­drawals, drunkenness, relaxation or sickness.

(d) Absenteeism in India is seasonal in character. It is the highest during March-April-May, when land has to be prepared for monsoon sowing and also in the harvest season (Sept.-Oct.) when the rate goes as high as 40 per cent.

Employee Absenteeism – 3 Major Factors Affecting: Organizational Factors, Social Factors and Personal Factors


The three major factors affecting employees and workers absenteeism are discussed as below:

I. Organizational Factors:

1. Dullness, monotony and mundaneness of work cause an employee to lose interest in work. It makes him physically and mentally tired.

2. Leniency towards absenteeism causes high rate of absenteeism.

3. Appointment of temporary or causal worker leads to high absenteeism.

4. Militant attitudes of trade unions also cause high absenteeism as workers become frustrated because of their attitude.

5. Ineffective and defective selection and placement procedure fuel absenteeism.


6. Heavy workload leads to excessive fatigue and industrial accidents.

7. Poor illumination, ventilation, lack of housing, canteen refreshment, dangerous work methods, lack of safety devices cause low morale among employees. Dissatisfaction leads to dislike of work. Absenteeism and turnover become obvious consequences.

8. Poor and bossy supervisors cause discontentment, unrest, conflict and tension causing absenteeism.

9. Overstaffing, irregular flow of production, ineffective use of skills, inadequate training, inadequate incentive system, ineffective grievance procedure, low morale and lack of job satisfaction trigger absenteeism.

10. Lower pay is one of the reasons for absenteeism since workers absent themselves to supplement their income by working elsewhere.

II. Social Factors:

1. Migratory nature of labour force in India does not engender a sense of belonging to the workplace. Hence there is frequent absence.


2. Inadequate housing and transport facilities keep workers away from work.

3. Lack of hospital facilities for treatment also leads to absenteeism.

4. Seasonal causes like cultivation season, marriage season, amusement, religious festivals, lead to absenteeism.

III. Personal Factors:

1. The rate of absence is high in the case of unskilled and young workers because of their personal problems.

2. Women workers are more prone to absenteeism because of their personal and family problems.

3. Alcoholic and drug addicts show higher tendency of absenteeism.


4. Indebtedness of workers causes absenteeism.

5. Inferiority complex, maladjustment, job dissatisfaction, neglect by family members, etc., cause workers to lose interest in the job. This triggers absenteeism.

Employee Absenteeism – Top 4 Types: Authorised and Unauthorised Absenteeism, Willful Absenteeism & Absenteeism Caused by Circumstances Beyond One’s Control

Absenteeism is of four types viz.:

(i) Authorised absenteeism,

(ii) Unauthorised absenteeism,

(iii) Willful absenteeism, and


(iv) Caused by circumstances beyond one’s control.

Type # 1. Authorised Absenteeism:

If an employee absents himself/ herself from work by taking permission from his superior and applying for leave, such absenteeism is called authorised absenteeism.

Type # 2. Unauthorised Absenteeism:

If an employee absents himself from work without informing or taking permission and without applying for leave, such absenteeism is called unauthorised absenteeism.

Type # 3. Willful Absenteeism:

If an employee absents himself from duty willfully, such absenteeism is called willful absenteeism.

Type # 4. Absenteeism Caused by Circumstances Beyond One’s Control:

If an employee absents himself from duty owing to the circumstances beyond his control like involvement in accidents or sudden sickness, such absenteeism is called absenteeism caused by circumstances beyond one’s control.

Employee Absenteeism – 5 Main Categories of Absentees Classified by K.N. Vaid: Entrepreneurs, Status Seekers, Epicureans, Family-Oriented and Sick and Old

K.N. Vaid classifies chronic absentees into five categories viz.:

(i) Entrepreneurs

(ii) Status seekers

(iii) Epicureans

(iv) Family-oriented, and

(v) The Sick and die Old.

(i) Entrepreneurs – This class of absentees considers that their jobs are very small for their total interest and personal goals. They engage themselves in other social and economic activities to fulfill their goals.

(ii) The Status Seekers – This type of absentees enjoys or perceives a higher ascribed social status and is keen on maintaining it.

(iii) The Epicureans – This class of absentees does not like to take up the jobs which demand initiative, responsibility, discipline and discomfort. They wish to have money, power, and status but are unwilling to work for their achievement.

(iv) Family-Oriented – This type of absentees is often identified with the family activities.

(v) The Sick and Old – This category of absentees is mostly unhealthy, with a weak constitution or old people.

Employee Absenteeism – Investigation Procedure

A regular investigation procedure for absence without leave must be instituted. Each individual case must be handled with firmness and caution. Personnel Department can play a great part in reducing ab­senteeism.

1. When an employee who was absent without leave on a working day, returns to work, the time office must mark the time of his arrival in his time card or register and send him to the Personnel Office.

2. Personnel Assistant must take his statement and take him to the Personnel Manager, along with his personal file, for further investi­gation.

3. Personnel Manager will question him about the reasons for his absence. If the reasons are satisfactory, leave can be granted and time card must be marked accordingly and initialled.

4. If absence is without sufficient or satisfactory reasons, the worker must be orally warned and sent to work. Written warning can be given for repeated absence without leave. Habitual absenteeism may lead to charge sheet. It is important, therefore, for the Personnel Office to keep proper records of each case.

5. When sickness is pleaded as an excuse for the absence, the employee must be asked to produce medical certificate, or the com­pany’s medical officer’s opinion must be taken.

6. After investigation and taking statements, the Personnel Office must initial the time card and send the worker to his department for work.

7. The employee must not be penalised for the time taken for investigation at the Personnel Office.

8. Foreman and Department Head concerned must be informed at all stages of such enquiry.

9. When an employee absents himself without leave for over a week, a registered acknowledgement due letter must be sent to his last known address, calling for an explanation and informing him that if he does not report for work within a reasonable period from the date of the letter, his absence will be treated as resignation.

There must be such a provision in the Standing Orders also. His reply or the letter which returns undelivered must be filed in the employee’s folder.

10. If he does not return within the specified period or produce a medical certificate or satisfactory evidence for absence, his services can be terminated after an ex-party enquiry and a letter of termination must be sent to him indicating that his services are terminated for absence without leave under provisions of the Standing Orders.

Employee Absenteeism – How to Calculate Employee Absenteeism Rate?

Absenteeism can be calculated with the help of the following formula-

Absenteeism Rate = Number of Mandays lost / Number of Mandays Scheduled to Work x 100

Absenteeism rate can be calculated for different employees and for different time periods like month and year.

The frequency rate reflects the incidence of absence and is usually expressed as the number of separate absence in a given period, irrespective of length of absences. The frequency rate represents the average number of absences per worker in a given period.

Frequency Rate = Total number of times in which the leave was availed / Total number of Mondays scheduled to work x 100

Severity Rate:

Severity rate is the average length of time lost per absence and is calculated by using the following formula-

Severity Rate = Total number of days absent during a period / Total number of times absent during that period x 100

A high severity rate indicates that the employee is absent for longer durations each time. High frequency and severity rates indicate that the employee is absent more frequently and for longer durations each time resulting in high absenteeism even in absolute terms.

Employee Absenteeism – 10 Major Causes: Maladjustment with Factory Conditions, Social and Religious Ceremonies, Unsatisfactory Housing Condition and a Few Others

The employee absenteeism is caused due to the following reasons:

Cause # 1. Maladjustment with Factory Conditions:

As employee continues to live in the city, urban life becomes distasteful to him because of the insanitary conditions prevailing there. He finds himself caught within great factory walls. He is by heavy traffic, by stranger’s speaking, different languages, he is confused by different religions to cases, he is subject to strict discipline and is ordered by complete strangers to do the things which he cannot understand. As a result he is under constant strain which causes him serious strain to impair his efficiency. All these factors tend to persuade him to maintain his contacts with his village.

Cause # 2. Social and Religious Ceremonies:

Social and religious functions divert employee from work to social activities.

In large number of cases, the proportion of absenteeism due to sickness, accident or maternity is not a high as it is due to other causes, including social and religious causes.

Absenteeism is high during local festivals, irrespective of whether the employees are from rural areas or not.

Cause # 3. Unsatisfactory Housing Condition:

The employees who come to towns usually find that they are not wanted and they swell the number of unemployed and casual workers. They also experience housing difficulties. Health conditions are natu­rally bad leading to high morbidity and consequent ill-health. They, therefore, make frequent visits to their village homes to get relief from such insanitary and unhealthy surroundings.

Cause # 4. Industrial Fatigue:

Low wages compel a worker to seek some part time job to earn some side income. But this often results in constant Fatigue, which compels him to remain absent for the next day and if fatigue affects him seriously, his absence may continue for a quite some time.

Cause # 5. Unhealthy Working Conditions:

Intolerable working conditions exist in factories, heat or moisture; noise and vibrations in the factory, bad lighting condition dust, fumes and ever crowding and all there affect the workers’ health causing him to remain absent for a long time.

Cause # 6. Absence of Adequate Welfare Facilities:

The National Commission on Labour observes “The statutory welfare amenities have not been properly and adequately provided. In several cases, particularly in medium and small sized units, the standards are distinctly poor.”

The studies made by some State in respect of the different components of welfare include sanitation, washing and bathing facilities, first aid application ambulance room, drinking water, canteen, rest room and creches which serene the general impression that compli­ance with statutory welfare provision is half-hearted to inadequate. Fed up with the absence of basic facilities the worker often migrates to his rural frame.

Cause # 7. Alcoholism:

The habit of alcoholism among workers is a significant cause of absenteeism which is high in the first week of each month. When workers, receive their wages. They rush to liquor shops and drink to forget their immediate worries. Once indulged in drink, the habit continues. Hang­over the next day leads to absenteeism.

Cause # 8. Indebtedness:

Most of the workers suffer from a high degree of indebtedness. Such workers absent themselves or even resign to escape the money lenders. As a result absenteeism is high.

Cause # 9. Improper to Unrealistic Personnel Policies:

In most cases unskilled, untrained and inexperience workers are rejected who fail to cope with and adapt themselves to their jobs and to their industrial environment to nepotism are rampant. These factors generate a frustration in the minds of works which results in low efficiency, low productivity and un-formable employee-employer relationship, which in turn lead to long periods of absenteeism.

Cause # 10. Inadequate Leave Facilities:

Negligence on the part of the employer to provide adequate leave facilities compels, the workers fall back on E.S.I. Leave.

Under E.S.I. return they are entitled to 56 days leave in a year on half-pay. Instead of going without pay the workers avail themselves of this E.S.I. facility.

Employee Absenteeism – 10 Adverse Effects

Absenteeism is a serious problem of the industrial world of today. It affects both the employees and the employers adversely.

Important effects of absenteeism may be summarised as follows:

1. Absenteeism stops the entire process of production. It stops the machines and hampers smooth flow of work.

2. As a result of loss of production, the cost of production increases. It results in the reduced margin of profits of the industry.

3. The rate of production and the productivity remains low. The production targets are upset.

4. As a result of increase in the cost of production, the selling price of the commodity is to be increased. So the customers have to pay more for the commodity.

5. Frequent absenteeism of the workers decreases their working efficiency also. It also reduces their interest in the work.

6. Due to absenteeism of regular workers, the industry has to depend upon casual or sub-standard employees, it causes many problems in itself such as-breakdown of machinery, low quality of production, wastages of raw materials etc.

7. As a result of all these factors, the enterprise gets itself unable to meet the demand of market in full and it causes delay in the supply to the valuable customers.

8. Frequent absenteeism of workers effects the economy of the workers also. It reduces their incomes.

9. High rate of absenteeism upsets personnel planning policy of an enterprise.

10. High rate of absenteeism is also a reason of indiscipline among the workers.

Thus it may concluded that the effects of absenteeism are multifarious. It affects all the workers, the employees, the government, the shareholders and the economy of the nation.

Employee Absenteeism – 10 Major Consequences of Higher Degree of Employee Absenteeism

The higher employee absenteeism is caused due to:

1. Higher degree of absenteeism hinders the process of implementation of HR planning.

2. When the nature of work is interdependent, absenteeism affects regular flow of work.

3. Loss of man days results in loss of output.

4. Manpower shortage leads to failure in attaining production targets which in turn causes failure in attaining sales targets which adversely impact the bottom line.

5. Absence of workers causes the plant to remain idle. This results in underutilization of machine capacity.

6. Manpower shortage triggered by absenteeism hinders the delivery schedule of enterprises. This makes them vulnerable to face litigation, penalty and loss of orders from clients.

7. Available workers need to be overloaded and overtime wages need to be paid to complete the task. This leads to higher financial commitment on the part of the enterprise.

8. Delayed delivery, delayed execution of orders lead to loss of customers and thereby the company loses its reputation.

9. The precious time of the employer is wasted in initiating disciplinary action on unauthorized absentees.

10. Absentee employees lose pay and get indebted to private money lenders.

Employee Absenteeism – How to Minimize Employee Absenteeism? (Measures for Control)

As regards measures to be adopted to remedy the situation.

The encyclopaedia of social sciences suggests the following measures to reduce the rate of absenteeism:

1. Absenteeism is probably a natural human reaction to the routine of modern factory life. There is a maladjustment between man’s instincts and desires and the regular working habits that are imposed upon him. The routine can be relaxed or modified by grant of leave with pay, by shortening or redistributing scheduled hours, by having employees living nearer to their places of work, and by adjusting the physical condition of the plant, especially noise and ventilation.

2. The personnel management should encourage notification, especially in cases of sickness when the duration of absences is likely to belong.

3. In case of personnel and family circumstances, e.g., illness of children in the case of married women employees which make absences unavoidable, leave should be granted liberally.

4. Regularly in attendance can be encouraged to some extent by the offer of a bonus and other pecuniary inducements.

5. To reduce unavoidable absence due to sickness and industrial accidents, programmes of industrial hygiene and safety should by, strengthened.

It should be noted no single measure can be effective in controlling absenteeism; but a skillful combination of various measures would definitely lead to the desired results.

These measures are:

1. Provision of Healthful and Hygienic Working Conditions:

In India, where the climate is warm and most of the works involves manual labour, it is essential that workers should be provided with proper and healthy working conditions. The facilities of drinking water, canteens, lavatories, rest rooms, lighting and ventilation, need to be improved. Where anyone of these facilities is not available, it should be provided. All these help in keeping the employee cheerful and increase productivity and the efficiency of operations throughout the plant.

2. Provision of Reasonable Wages and Allowances and Job Security for Workers:

Some of the wages of an employee determine his as well as his family’s standard of living, this single factor is important for him than any other. The management should, therefore, pay reasonable wages and allowances, taking into account the capacity of the industry to pay, the level of wages prevailing in different units of the same industry in the same area in neighbouring areas, the productivity of labour and the general effect of rising wages in neighbouring industries.

The allowances that may be paid to workers should include old age allowance, length-of-service allowance, position allowance, special job allowance, good attendance allowance, transportation allowance and housing allowance, so that the worker may have and know security of employment.

3. Adoption of a Well Defined Recruitment Procedure:

The selection of employees on the basis of communal, linguistic and family consideration should be discouraged or avoided. The management should look for aptitude and ability in the prospective employees and should not easily yield to pressure or personal likes and dislikes. Application blanks should invariably be used for a preliminary selection and as tools for interviews.

The personnel officer should play a more effective role as a co-ordinator of information provided that he has acquired job knowledge in the function of selection. Employers also should take into account the fact that selection should be for employees’ development; their reliance, therefore, on intermediaries for the recruitment of employees should be entirely done away with.

4. Motivation of Workers – Welfare and Social Measures:

The management should recognise the needs of workers and offer them adequate and cheap housing facilities, free or subsidised food, free medical aid and transportation facilities to and for their residence, free educational facilities for their children, and other monetary and non­monetary benefits.

Their genuine difficulties—for example, their need of money at the time of marriage, death, family illness and disablement— should be recognised by the management and it should try to help them in this regard. As for social security measures such as the provision of provident fund, E.S.I, facilities, gratuity and pension, all these need to be improved, so that workers may have a sense of belonging.

5. Safety and Accident Prevention:

Safety at work can be maintained and accidents can be prevented if the management tries to eliminate such personal factors as negligence, over-confidence, careless­ness, vanity, etc., and such material factors as unguarded machinery and explosives, defective equipment and hand tools. Job satisfaction and cordial relations between the workers and the employers would help eliminate most of the personal factors.

As for the hazards to which industrial workers are exposed, supervisors should ensure that proper operational procedures and safety instructions are followed in the course of work. Work groups should be taught safe methods of operation. In addition to consistent and timely safety instructions, written instructions (manual) in the regional language of the area should be given to the work force.

6. Liberal Grant or Leave:

The management’s strict attitude in granting leave and holidays, even when the need for them is genuine, tempts workers to go on E.S.I, leave, for under this scheme, they can have 56 days in a year on half day. An effective way of dealing with absenteeism is to liberalise leave rules.

7. Improved Communication and Prompt Redressal of Grievances:

Since a majority of the workers are illiterate, bulletins and written notices, journals and booklets are not understood by them. Therefore, timely illustrations and instructions, meetings and counseling, are called for. Written communication becomes meaningful only when workers can read and understand. As regards notice boards, too many notices should be avoided; only the essential ones should be put on the board, which should be placed near the entrance, inside the canteen and in areas which are frequently visited.

8. Cordial Relations between Supervisors and Workers:

Cordial relations between the supervisor and the workers are essential for, without them, discipline cannot be maintained and productivity cannot be increased. One of the consequences of unhealthy relations between supervisors and subordinates is absenteeism. Therefore, supervisors should be given a proper training in this field to create an atmosphere in which willing co­operation exists between them and the work force, and workers would freely discuss their problems with their supervisors.

9. Development of Worker’s Education:

The system of workers education should be so designed as to take into account their educational needs as individuals for their personal evaluation; as operatives for their efficiency and advancement; as citizens for a happy integrated life in the community; as members of a trade union for the protection of their interests.

This educational programme, according to the National Commission on Labour, should be to make a worker:

(a) Aware of his rights and obligations;

(b) A responsible, committed and disciplined operative;

(c) Understand the basic economic and technical aspects of the industry and the plant where he is employed so that he may take an intelligent interest in its affairs;

(d) Lead a calm, clean and health life, based on a firm ethical foundation;

(e) Understand the organisation and functioning of a trade union and develop qualities of leadership, loyalty and devotion to it, work so that he may intelligently participate in its affairs;

(f) A responsible and alert citizen.

(x) Other Measures.

(a) A supervisor should not be regarded as another worker and should be given definite authority to take action in all cases of absenteeism.

(b) There should be clear and definite rules and regulations on authorised and unauthorised leave.

(c) A proper record of each worker’s attendance should be maintained on a special daily attendance card.

(d) The rules and regulations relating to attendance must be explained to workers.

The employer, the employee and the State have a definite role of play. If each performs it properly and harmoniously, the problems of inefficiency, undesired conflict, low productivity, dissatisfaction on the part of workers and their low morale resulting in frequent absenteeism can be largely eliminated. Industrial relations in a democracy should be based on an integrated approach, aiming at individual satisfaction and group satisfaction, and achievements of the goals of the community and of the nation as a whole.

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