From this article you will learn:
- the most common causes of absenteeism,
- market trends, forecasts and tendencies,
- how to counteract absenteeism,
- how to support employees wisely and in the long term.
In an article on employee health (which you can find HERE), we pointed out that each percentage of sickness absenteeism corresponds to a loss of 0.7 percent of a company’s profit . In addition, this issue negatively affects team morale, atmosphere at the company, and, last but not least, work efficiency. However, it is worth remembering that sickness is not the only reason for absence. Though actually the most common one.
What are the most common actual reasons for absences?
- Mental and physical health
Since the time of publication of our article on countering sickness absenteeism, it is difficult to identify any major changes in trends. In the initial period of 2023, the number of sick leaves related to respiratory diseases and mental disorders increased by 5.7 and (insignificantly) by 0.1 percentage points, respectively (compared to 2022), while the number of sick leaves related to pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum period decreased (by 2.2 percentage points) . However, it is difficult to speak of a steady trend here.
Unfortunately, the data on this type of absenteeism is often distorted due to abuse by employees themselves. As much as... 1/3 of the workforce admit to such absences. 28 percent of those reporting such behaviour justified it by reluctance to work on that day, 24 percent needed a day of relaxation, and 18 percent simply needed to get some sleep. 
Of course, such absences are not always due to laziness. A day of relaxation or good sleep can constitute a response to having been previously overloaded with work beyond what you can handle, whereas reluctance to work can result from bad atmosphere in the office. The explanation that shifts the blame to employees is oversimplified and in the long run may lead to an outflow of talent from the company.
- Taking care of children/family members
The second most common reason for absence from work is related to childcare. In this case, Poles can choose from a number of leave options, such as maternity, paternity, parental, and childcare. Employers must also take into account the leave for the care of a healthy child (2 days per year) or leave for the care of a sick child under 14.
- Holiday leave
This is another possible reason for absence. As it turns out, Polish workers opt for longer holidays, taken within a single period of time. This tendency applies to more than half of them. They most often take holiday leave in July or August (75 percent of holidaymakers) .
- Other reasons
The Labour Code also allows for other reasons for absence, such as call-ups to the military or summons by state institutions, family matters (such as funerals of loved ones), as well as fortuitous events. However, this is a negligible percentage of the leave taken. In this case, it is also difficult to make any predictions or draw reliable conclusions.
How to address absenteeism?
- Sickness absenteeism
First of all, it is worth determining whether the company... experiences such a problem at all. For an office environment, natural values range from 0.1 to 1 percent (these may vary slightly, depending, for example, on the seasons of natural decline in immunity) .
However, even in such case, it is worthwhile to take care of employees’ health. Then, on the one hand, you can act preventively, and, on the other hand, build the image of a company that cares about the well-being of its team.
How to support employees?
Benefits streamlining the use of primary healthcare – an example of this is the Telemedi platform, which makes it easier to receive medical advice quickly, including obtain an e-prescription or a referral to a specialist as part of an online consultation. Appointments with diagnosticians are available on the platform as early as an hour after the request. With this solution, you not only take care of the health of employees, but also ensure that a visit to the doctor will not require a several hours’ absence from work.
Benefits enabling diagnostics – good health requires continuous monitoring. It’s worth supporting employees in this by offering them laboratory testing packages (you’ll find these as part of MultiLife, among others). In addition, this type of benefit can be supported by internal company campaigns drawing attention to the need for regular examinations. Such “Health Days” play not only a preventive role, but also a team-building one.
Sports benefits – a report by Benefit Systems from 2022 proves that almost half (47 percent) of Polish employees expect employers to support physical activity . Here we have a win-win situation, because for the employer it is actually an investment in reducing sickness absenteeism. In addition to a sports card, it’s a good idea to provide your staff with consultations with a personal trainer or dietitian or with a variety of courses to build and stay in shape. Such solutions are also offered by MultiLife.
Benefits ensuring mental health – mental health problems increasingly contribute to sickness absenteeism. At the same time, as shown in the said Benefit Systems’ report, as many as 48 percent of employees are in favour of psychological support from the company. The same study reveals that 43 percent put relaxation courses/workshops high on their list of desired benefits. Such solutions are also provided by MultiLife. It includes courses for employees in areas such as breathing, yoga or mindfulness, among others, as well as useful apps for taking care of the psyche – such as Focusly.
Proper infrastructure – quiet work rooms, relaxation rooms, indoor yoga rooms – all these make it easier for employees to take care of their physical and mental health also after return to the office.
- Apparent sickness absence
What is meant here are the aforementioned situations in which the employer has a reasonable suspicion that behind a large part of the absences there are reasons other than an actual illness – such as fatigue, stress or bad atmosphere at work.
To some extent, the solutions here may be similar to those above – proper infrastructure or taking care of mental and physical well-being. In addition, it is also worth rethinking the workload of individuals related to processes and tasks. Any inclusive initiatives can work especially well, which you can read more about in the article “Bringing Teams Back Together Again”.
- Absence due to care
On 26 April 2023, an amendment to the Labour Code went into effect, implementing the EU work-life balance directive in Poland (Journal of Laws of 2023, item 641). The Act, among other things, extends parental leave for fathers by additional nine weeks .
Although some employers approach these regulations with a great deal of caution – in practice, it is an excellent solution for activating all employees – especially women, in whose case the greater part of the burden related to childcare is most often placed.
- Holiday leave
For 81 percent of Poles, a good holiday is crucial to maintaining job satisfaction. Meanwhile, as many as one in five admit that they have had their holiday cut short at the request of their employer .It is worth remembering that adequate rest is in the interest of both employees and employers. A tired team will always work inefficiently, and the mood of overworked people will negatively affect the company’s image and reputation.
As you can see, absenteeism is not always a cause for concern. The most important thing is to keep everything in the right proportion – either the accumulation of holiday or multiple sick leaves mean it’s worth rethinking schedules, processes and benefits.
- Raport Benefit Systems „Zmęczeni, obojętni, niezaangażowani. Postpandemiczne potrzeby pracowników” z 2022.