The Cost of Absenteeism

Employees are less likely to play hooky when they work at SMEs. Here's why

Written by Mira Shenker

Is all of your staff at the office right now? Maybe one employee is out sick. Another may have taken a personal day or is at a doctor’s appointment.

Wherever they are, there’s a good chance you’re not taking note of it. A new report released by the Conference Board of Canada today shows that most Canadian businesses don’t track absenteeism at all. Based on the 46% of companies that do keep tabs, the average absenteeism rate in 2011 was 9.3 days per full-time employee.

Read: 5 Ways to Curb Employee Absenteeism

The Conference Board estimates that this absenteeism cost the Canadian economy $16.6 billion in 2012. But what has it cost your business? ‘Absenteeism’ can mean anything from an employee taking a few days off to battle the flu to a leave of absence that takes months. The loss of productivity, particularly for a smaller business with fewer employees, can be crippling.

The report, Absenteeism Trends in Canada, looks at what causes employees to take off and how owners and managers can prevent it. It also analyzes the limited data that is available on absenteeism rates in Canada. In 2012, businesses with fewer than 20 employees had the lowest rate of absenteeism (7.5 days per employee). The higher the employee count, the more days employees took off. Organizations with more than 500 employees had an average of 11.1 days per employee.

Why are absenteeism rates lower for small businesses? For one thing, research suggests that the more positive the work environment and employee-employer relationship, the less likely employees are to miss work. Many small businesses claim that the way they retain their best employees is by having a positive work environment and appealing culture.

The truth is, there are also just fewer people (often no one) to cover in the event of an employee absence, so it’s more obvious when an employee is absent.

The report also suggests that smaller organizations are also less likely to be unionized and, since unionized employees log more absent days than non-unionized, that could contribute to the lower absenteeism.

The Conference Board cautions that, while these factors contribute to lower absenteeism, they can also perpetuate a culture where employees come in to work when they are too ill or contagious. “Given their limited resources, it is especially important for smaller organizations to have policies in place that are aimed at limiting the spread of illness.”

Read: How Apathy Breeds Absentees

Is absenteeism a problem at your business? Why or why not? And do you track employee absences? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com