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Absenteeism Rate Formula: How to Create a Happier Workforce

Employee Wellbeing
September 13, 2022
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Employee absenteeism is a constant struggle for businesses. When employees miss work, processes may suffer and team morale can take a hit, especially if attendance issues at work are commonplace. The absenteeism rate formula can be used to calculate absenteeism rate, but in an effort to reduce it, you must focus on the root of the cause. 

In this article, we will look at the absenteeism rate formula, and go a step further to uncover how your business can protect against absenteeism by focusing on employee mental wellbeing. Seems disconnected? Trust us, it’s more connected than you could ever imagine.

What Is Employee Absenteeism?   

Employee absenteeism refers to unannounced or unexcused employee absences from work. While there are acceptable reasons and situations for employees to miss work or take off time, employee absenteeism is concerned with the unplanned absences.

Any type of absence can harm a business because businesses depend on people to get jobs done. But unplanned time off work can have a greater impact because businesses are not prepared for them. 

What is Absenteeism Rate?   

With so many things to keep track of in a business, how can you know if employee absences are creeping up too high? 

The absenteeism rate provides you with the amount of days that an employee misses in a certain period of time. Using the absenteeism rate formula, you can deduce whether or not the rate is within an acceptable threshold or if action needs to be taken.

What is the Absenteeism Rate Formula?       

The absenteeism rate formula is as follows:

Employee absenteeism rate = (Average # of employees x unexcused absences) / (average # of employees x total workdays) 

To get the average number of employees, add the number of employees as the beginning and end of the period you are studying and divide by two. 

Or the number of unexcused absences, you’ll have to tally them up and leave out any excused or planned absences.

What are the Types of Employee Absenteeism?       

To make use of the absenteeism rate formula, you’ll have to separate the two types of employee absenteeism to get an accurate figure. These include:

1. Excused Absences

When employees fall ill suddenly or plan for absences in advance for personal reasons, these are excusable examples. Although they may also be unannounced, such as in the case of sickness, they are viewed as excused and legitimate. 

Scheduled absences are those that occur with plans in advance, such as vacation, holiday, maternity or paternity leave, etc. Since these planned absences tend not to be habitual and can be expected in advance, they have less of a negative impact on the organisation. 

2. Unexcused Absences

On the other hand, common absences without notice or reason fall under the category of unexcused absences. These are the types of absences that should be tracked and managed, in an effort to be avoided altogether. 

In many cases, employees end up taking unexcused absences because they feel overwhelmed, anxious, stressed, or burned out. By carefully caring for your employees mental wellbeing in advance of such effects, you can help to lessen the likelihood of unexcused absenteeism. Here’s a look at how employee wellbeing platforms can aid in this endeavor.

What is an Example of Absenteeism Rate?   

Let’s look at an absenteeism rate formula in action to understand how to apply it. 

Imagine you are looking to gauge your absenteeism rate during January 2022. Start by counting the number of employees you had at the beginning and end of the month. Let’s say it’s 10 and 8. The average employee headcount would then be 9, calculated by adding 10 and 8 and dividing by 2. 

From January 1- January 31, add up Monday-Friday days and subtract for January 3, which was a holiday for New Year’s Eve. You had 20 working days in the month. 

Three employees had one unexcused absence each during the month. Now, plug that into the absenteeism rate formula. 

(9x3) / (9x20) = .15 or 15%

What is the Impact of Absenteeism?       

Either type of absenteeism can detrimentally affect your organisation's productivity levels. However, the gap between the two comes down to your level of preparedness. 

With excused absences, teams can prepare to pick up the slack of the excused employee. Or, you can even fill in the position with a temp or sub if you have advanced notice. However, with unexcused absences that are continuous, everyone feels the burden. 

The effects are noticeable: teams function with less productivity and processes can be delayed. Beyond the quantifiable effects, there are behavioral and sentimental consequences. When a team member is habitually absent with no announcement, the team’s morale may suffer. 

Not only are existing team members left to pick up the missing employee’s workload, but they also might start to question the culture and organisation itself.

How to Prepare for Workplace Absenteeism?   

When trying to manage workplace absenteeism, it can quickly become overwhelming. Having plans in place can help to account for workplace absences and keep business running as usual as much as possible. 

When you are aware of scheduled absences, consider:

  • Reinforcement: Hiring or filling the missing position in advance
  • Delegation: Make sure that people know what tasks they will pick up in order to keep the absence employee’s workload flowing
  • Record: keep track of absent employees and check-in with them when they are back

What is Absence Rate vs Absence Frequency   

When calculating the absenteeism rate formula, it’s useful to know that it’s not the same as the frequency rate. 

The absence rate provides detailed information about unplanned absences, but the frequency rate will capture the rate of absences in your whole organisation by looking at the number of separate absences. 

With short and frequent absences, you may be able to deduce burnout or disengagement. Long absences are more likely to be indicative of illnesses or recovery time. 

To calculate the frequency rate, divide the number of absences in a specific period of time by the number of employees in that period and multiply by 100.

What is a High Absence Rate?   

In 2021, the sickness absence rate in the UK rose to 2.2% after being at a record low of 1.8% in 2020. 

Absence rates vary by industry, so to figure out if your business’ absenteeism rate is high, look up benchmarks based on averages. That being said, when absence rates fall very low, such as under 1.8%, it may be indicative of presenteeism. 

This could also present an issue if employees show up to work sick. Doing this can exacerbate mental health and end up leading to more serious illnesses or issues in the future. To prevent this from happening, you can provide employees with access to an employee wellbeing platform. 

Employee wellbeing tools grant employees with resources to understand their own mental health, spot signs, and know how to talk about their needs in a proactive way. It also can help employees better learn how to manage stress levels so that their physical and mental health don’t suffer from the effects of prolonged stress.

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How to Use Your Absenteeism Rate?   

Once you use the absenteeism rate formula, what are you to do with the information? 

You can use your absenteeism rate to:

1. Consider Policies

Take some time to look at your paid time off policy. Decide if your workplace is offering enough flexibility for employees. If it’s not, it could be the reason why employees are feeling burned out or taking unexcused absences. 

2. Make Decisions

If recurring absences are affecting your business processes and operations, you may have to make the unfortunate decisions of terminating an employee for excessive absenteeism. 

3. Connect the Dots

Although it’s not always this straightforward, you may want to look for connections and correlations between your absence rates and productivity or profit levels. 

See if there are seasonal absences or patterns that can help you better understand or expect unexcused absences in advance. In addition, if you implement an employee wellbeing platform, you can gain insights about causation and stress levels between departments. 

This way, you can spot trends and patterns for teams and departments that need extra resources and provide them with the necessary support before it becomes too much for employees to manage.

What are Other Methods to Calculate Employee Absences?       

Along with the absenteeism rate formula, you can make use of other methods to calculate absences. Some of these include:

1. Lost Time Rate 

This shows the percentage of total time available that was lost due to an absence. The formula is: (total absence [hours or days] / total hours or days of the period analyzed) x 100

2. Severity Rate 

This measures the average length of time lost per absence. To calculate it, here’s the formula:  (total number of days absent during a period / total number of times missing during that period) x 100

3. Bradford Factor Score 

We’ve talked about the Bradford Factor before, so if you want to dive more deeply into it, review this guide. As a summation, it’s used to identify recurring short absences and is calculated by: (number of occasions of absence)² x total number of days of absence

How to Prevent Absenteeism?   

With all this talk of calculating absences, it’s now time to talk about how to prevent absenteeism. After all, that’s likely your goal!

1. Communication

Be clear about absence policies and what employees should expect. Ensure that employees understand that if they feel sick, they should stay home and that legitimate reasons for absences will not be held against them. 

2. Benefits and Policies 

Improving employee benefits can positively address absenteeism. From offering better health plans to allowing sick days to be considered “personal days,” employees may feel more open to be honest about their reasons for absences, rather than feeling like they have to lie. 

3. Mental Wellbeing

By prioritising employee mental wellbeing, you can dramatically help to reduce absenteeism, especially in the cases where employees aren’t showing up because they are stressed or overwhelmed

By implementing an employee wellbeing platform, you equip employees with a better understanding of their mental wellbeing, and the tools and techniques needed to better support themselves. 

Wellbeing platforms also provide detailed insights to businesses so that they can take a preventative approach to wellbeing, rather than only being able to react after the fact.

The Bottom Line 

By utilizing the  absenteeism rate formula, you’ll be able to keep an eye on employee absenteeism. Beyond tallying the numbers and monitoring absences, you can take a proactive stance to reduce unexcused absences. 

A focus on employee wellbeing can go a long way to promote a workforce that is adaptable to change, able to communicate their needs, and knows when to take breaks. This preventative approach can lead to increased productivity, engaged staff, and a team that wants to show up and do their best every day.

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