DEFINITION of Absenteeism

Absenteeism is the habitual non-presence of an employee at his or her job. Habitual non-presence extends beyond what is expected as a normal amount of time away for reasons such as scheduled vacation or occasional illness. Possible causes of absenteeism include job dissatisfaction, ongoing personal issues and chronic medical problems. Regardless of the cause, a worker with a pattern of being absent may put his reputation and his employed status at risk. However, some forms of absence from work are legally protected and cannot be grounds for termination.


Absenteeism refers to absence from work that extends beyond what would be considered reasonable and normal due to vacation, personal time or occasional illness. Companies expect their employees to miss some work each year due to vacation, illness and personal issues and responsibilities, but missing work becomes a problem for the company when the employee is absent repeatedly and/or unexpectedly, especially if that employee must be paid while absent. While disability leave, performance of jury duty and the observance of religious holidays are all legally protected reasons for an employee to miss work, some employees abuse these laws to take time off that they shouldn't, which incurs unfair costs to the employer.

Example of Absenteeism

For example, Angela is dissatisfied with her working environment and job responsibilities. She regularly calls in sick to work for days at a time, often missing five days each month, even though she does not have any actual chronic health problems. This is an example of absenteeism.