Organizational Wellness

How to Calculate Your Employee Absenteeism Rate – And Why You Should Crunch the Numbers

Feb 27, 2023
Last Updated Feb 22, 2024

Do you remember, in grade school, how some students would strive for perfect attendance? Maybe you were one of them! If you made it through the whole school year without missing a single day of class, you usually received a certificate. 

Some students carried on their perfect attendance streak from year to year. A very lucky few even graduated high school without being absent a single time. But perfect attendance isn’t realistic — or healthy. 

In your workplace, people will take time off. They get sick, they go on vacation, they have to attend to family matters. There are all sorts of reasons why someone might need to take off from work, and your benefits policy likely provides them with the appropriate leave. 

Some employees will still miss days of work even outside of that. So it’s important for you to know just how many employees are absent, on average, so you can plan for coverage in your workforce. Learn how to calculate your absenteeism rate so you can efficiently sort out your business operations.

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What is an Employee Absenteeism Rate?

Your employee absenteeism rate is the amount of time an employee takes off from work in a given period. It’s expressed as a percentage and it measures how often your workers are absent.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the benchmark absenteeism rate across all industries in 2021 was 3.2%.

 

How to Calculate Your Employee Absenteeism Rate

To get started, you’ll need to assemble a few key pieces of data: the number of absences and the total number of available work days or hours in the period. According to ISO 30414:2018, the employee absenteeism rate is calculated by dividing the number of unexcused absences by the total period and then multiplying by 100.

Here’s what the full absenteeism rate formula looks like:

Employee absence rate = number of absent days / number of total working days * 100

 

You can measure the absenteeism rate (also known as absence rate or absence percentage) for individual employees, for specific departments, or for your whole organization. Your absence rate will never be zero, but a low employee absence rate is an important indicator of team morale, productivity, and wellbeing.

Let’s look at an absenteeism rate example to show you how to calculate with real metrics. If a company has an employee who was absent five days in a month, and the total number of work days was 30, then their employee absenteeism rate would be (5/30) x 100 = 16.7%.

You can also use this formula to calculate absenteeism rates for individual employees or groups of employees, like a certain team within your organization. If you’re calculating the rate for multiple employees, you would just add up the total number of absent days and available working days among the group and plug them into the formula.

To streamline your calculations, you might calculate your absenteeism rates in Excel. With the formula functions, you can automatically adjust the numbers and calculate absence rates in one spreadsheet. You can then use the spreadsheet as the basis for your reporting.

 

Why Absenteeism Rates Matter for HR Leaders

For human resource leaders, managing employee absenteeism is an essential part of their job. Tracking absenteeism rates will help you prioritize organizational efficiency and job satisfaction.

Absenteeism rates matter from a people operations standpoint because:

  • They can lead to cost increases for your organization: High absenteeism rates often drive up costs for employers, lowering budgets for other important HR initiatives. If people are out of work, you’ll likely end up paying overtime to cover shifts or employee tasks.
  • They can lower employee morale: Even if just one person has a high absenteeism rate, it can create resentment among their coworkers — and lead to decreased job satisfaction in the long run.
  • They give insights into productivity and staffing: Without enough people on the job, the team may have trouble meeting deadlines or completing tasks. Absenteeism rates help with capacity planning.

With accurate information about employee absenteeism rates, HR leaders can be proactive in recruiting and booking staff to fill any gaps left by absent employees. And with insight into absenteeism, HR has data that may help them provide guidance on policies. Overall, what you know about absenteeism can make it easier for staff to balance day-to-day responsibilities without compromising attendance.

 

What Factors Impact Absenteeism Rates?

The reality is, a variety of factors can affect absenteeism rates. Improved job satisfaction and morale, better benefits, the organization’s culture, and the employee’s physical and mental wellbeing all play a role in absenteeism rates. That’s why HR leaders may want to consider several areas when analyzing their team’s absenteeism rate. This insight can help you boost employee engagement and productivity.

Some of the most common factors that lead to employee absenteeism include:

  1. Illness or injury: Sick days are one of the biggest causes of employee absenteeism. According to the BLS, illness or injury spurred an annual absenteeism rate of 2.3% for all employees in 2021.
  2. Personal needs: People may need to take time off for personal reasons, like a doctor’s appointment or family event.
  3. Poor or unsupportive working conditions: Low employee morale and unpleasant working conditions can lead to excessive absenteeism.
  4. Lack of engagement: Employees who aren’t engaged or motivated are more likely to take time off.
  5. Poor job satisfaction: People who don’t enjoy their jobs or don’t feel appreciated might also feel less motivated to come into work.
  6. Long hours or burnout: Working too many hours without breaks or working too much can lead to frequent absences. One study found that burnout was a predictor of sick days among employees in the human services sector.
  7. Childcare responsibilities: Employees may take time off to take care of their children or other family members.
  8. Unreliable transportation: People may skip work if their mode of transportation isn’t available.
  9. Adverse weather: Bad weather can lead to unplanned absences. This is especially true for major weather events like snow storms or hurricanes.

 

The Benefits of Understanding Your Company’s Absenteeism Rate

Understanding your company’s absenteeism rate is essential for HR leaders. This data gives you a clear advantage in your operations:

  • Improved resource allocation: By tracking employee absenteeism, you can plan employee workloads accordingly and make sure everyone is working at peak efficiency.
  • Better employee management: You can also use absentee data to help analyze employee morale, stress levels, and job satisfaction. Then you have the info you need to provide support for your workers and address any issues.
  • Reduced employee turnover: A low employee absenteeism rate is linked to higher employee retention. Analyzing this data may help you identify any areas where your workers are feeling undervalued or unsupported. According to Gallup, departments with engaged employees see an 81% difference in absence rates.

Proactive measuring and monitoring of employee absenteeism allows HR managers to adjust course when attendance slips. Some employees value flexibility as much as a 10% salary increase, so offering flexible work options, like hybrid schedules, may increase attendance and retention.

 

Focus on Employee Wellbeing to Improve Absenteeism Rates

Once you understand the factors that can lead to employee absenteeism, you can better assess how well your organization is managing its human resources.

If employees are missing work, there may be wellness-related factors keeping them away — whether it’s their physical health, stress, or another area entirely. By improving employee wellbeing, you’ll boost attendance, productivity, and morale in your workplace. Employee benefits like employee assistance programs, flexible working hours, and employee recognition may help reduce employee absenteeism rates.

Talk to one of our wellbeing specialists today to learn about launching your own wellness program so you can help your employees bring their best selves to work!

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Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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