Absenteeism in the Workplace: Causes, Costs & Types Video

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  • 0:02 Absenteeism
  • 0:53 Causes of Absenteeism
  • 1:31 Costs of Absenteeism
  • 2:30 Presenteeism
  • 3:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dr. Douglas Hawks

Douglas has two master's degrees (MPA & MBA) and is currently working on his PhD in Higher Education Administration.

Few, if any, organizations can claim 100% attendance by all employees. In this lesson, you'll learn about the causes and costs of absenteeism. After the lesson, you can test your understanding with a short quiz.

Definition of Absenteeism

There are a lot of reasons employees don't show up for work every once in a while. Sometimes they take sick days, others earn vacation days and sometimes they just don't show up. The habitual pattern of missing work on a relatively frequent basis is called absenteeism. Absenteeism is often seen as an indicator of poor performance. Even if he or she is the smartest person in the office, absenteeism comes with a high cost to the employer.

Human Resources professionals suggest that there are two kinds of absenteeism. Culpable absenteeism is absenteeism when the employee doesn't provide a legitimate reason for missing work. Non-culpable absenteeism is absenteeism when the employee does give a legitimate reason for missing work.

Causes of Absenteeism

The causes of non-culpable absenteeism are generally not a big concern. Because employees inform managers ahead of time they won't be able to work, the impact isn't as serious as with the unanticipated, culpable absenteeism. The causes of culpable absenteeism are important, as they can provide managers with important feedback, either about a single employee or about workplace morale.

Numerous surveys done by organizations and consulting groups have identified the three most common causes of absenteeism: personal health concerns, demands of children/family and lack of motivation.

Costs of Absenteeism

Estimates put the absenteeism rate in the United States at about nine percent. That estimate is across all industries and all job types (hourly, salaried, etc.). But even including every type of position, a nine percent absentee rate means that almost one in every ten workers aren't at work when they are supposed to be. This ends up costing the typical company $3,600 per year for each hourly worker and $2,650 for each salaried worker. Absenteeism may not show up on any financial statements as an expense to the company, but even if they aren't stated, they are a very real cost.

The financial costs aren't the only costs associated with absenteeism. Absenteeism can reflect, and perpetuate, low morale. If someone doesn't show up to work and other employees need to work harder so the department doesn't fall behind, those employees may lose motivation.


As organizations have looked for ways to hold employees accountable for absenteeism, and as unemployment concerns have pressured employees to show up for work, some researchers have suggested there is another concept related to absenteeism that can be just as costly.

Presenteeism is described as when employees show up to work when they really shouldn't, usually because they are sick, but also because some people refuse to take time off and overwork themselves. While the idea of presenteeism is a new concept, it has quickly been acknowledged by managers and employees. When an employee comes to work sick and spreads their illness, the cost is much higher than if they had missed a day of work.

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