This guide is a short Q&A covering everything you need to know about your employee absenteeism rate or workplace absence rate. This includes defining absenteeism, the absenteeism rate formula, how to calculate your absenteeism rate, benchmarks, and tips for reducing absenteeism in your organization.

What is absenteeism in the workplace?

Absenteeism in the workplace is defined as an employee’s habitual or intentional failure to report for work.

To understand absenteeism, we first have to understand absence. In general, it refers to something that is not present or is missing. In the workplace, absence refers to an employee’s time away from work.

When an employee is absent from work, it means they are not working during their scheduled shift. This can be for a variety of reasons, such as vacation, sick days, personal days, or bereavement leave.

Absenteeism is a negative behavior because it refers to absences that are unplanned and come at a steeper cost to the organization.  It can be contrasted with other forms of absence, such as vacation time, sick leave, or maternity leave.

While absenteeism can be a problem for businesses, it’s important to remember that employees may sometimes need to take unscheduled time off for legitimate reasons. Therefore, it’s important to have a policy in place that distinguishes between the two and outlines the consequences for each. This will help to ensure that employees are held accountable for their absenteeism, while also allowing them to take the time off they need without fear of reprisal.

What is the employee absenteeism rate?

The employee absenteeism rate, or absence rate, is the percentage of time that your operation was not staffed as usual due to unexcused absence. It is a measure of how often employees are absent from work.

The absenteeism rate can be expressed as a percentage of total possible work hours or work days that are missed due to absences.

You can look at it as a comparison of the expected vs. actual amount of time employees worked during a specific time period.

How to calculate absenteeism rate?

To calculate an absenteeism rate, you first need to determine whether you’re measuring absences by work days or work hours. Then you need to determine the time period you’re measuring and gather employee absence data for that period.

Although absenteeism can include partial absences or even routine tardiness, the standard measure used by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is in days and uses the following formula:


Absenteeism rate = (number of absent days/number of available work days in a given period)

You need two variables to make this calculation:

  1. Number of absent days
  2. Number of available work days in a given period

To give a very simple example, if you wanted to measure absenteeism for a five-day workweek where one employee was supposed to work each day and one called off, the calculation would be:

(1 absent day/5 available work days in the given period) = .2 absenteeism rate

This is generally represented as a percentage, so you need to multiply the answer by 100.

That makes the standard absenteeism formula:

Absenteeism rate = ((number of absent days/number of available work days in a given period)*100)

Or, for our above example:

((1 absent days / 5 available work days in the given period)*100) = 20% weekly absenteeism rate

The annual absenteeism rate formula would be the same.


Annual absenteeism rate = ((number of days absent during a year/number of available work days in a year)*100)

Another method of calculating the absenteeism rate is to take the number of lost work hours due to absenteeism divided by the total number of available work hours.

A 5-Step Absenteeism Rate Formula

Here is another way to approach calculating your absenteeism rate.

  1. Determine the time period you want to use – typically six months or a year
  2. For this time period, get the amount of time not worked as scheduled due to unexcused absence for each employee, and add them together to get the total for all employees
  3. For the same time period, get the amount of time that should have been worked for each employee; add them together to get the total for all employees
  4. Divide the total time not worked (from step 3) by the total time that should have been worked (from step 4)
  5. Multiply the result from step 4 by 100 to convert it to a percentage

Time not worked / Time that should have been worked X 100 = Absenteeism Rate


Let’s say the fictitious All-American Company has 115 employees. Each employee is scheduled for approximately 40 hours per week in an around-the-clock warehouse operation.

At 40 hours per week, each employee is expected to work 2,080 hours a year. In 2021, each employee had unplanned, unexcused absences totaling 85 hours.

What is the absenteeism rate for the year?

Time not worked = 9,808 hours (85 hours per employee x 115 employees); time that should have been worked = 239,200 hours (2,080 hours per employee x 115 employees)

9,808 hrs / 239,200 hrs = .0410033 X 100 = 4.1%

What is an acceptable absenteeism rate?

While the national average in the U.S. is 3.2% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the experts say you should target 1.5%.

Related Reading: Managing Employee Attendance

Why is the absenteeism rate important?

If you see undesirable trends in your organization e.g. falling revenue or disgruntled employees, it may be impossible to make corrections without knowing and understanding your absenteeism rate and its role in the health of your company.

If you know there is a high percentage of time that your regularly scheduled employees fail to come to work (for reasons that do not qualify as protected and excusable absences), you can investigate the causes and work to turn things around.

There are many benefits of reducing unexcused absences:

  • Reduced costs like temp agency fees
  • Increased productivity, especially for managers and supervisors
  • Improved employee morale
  • Greater workforce stability with lower turnover
  • Improved workplace safety and security
  • Higher quality of goods and services

How do I benchmark my absenteeism rate?

Comparing your absenteeism rate to the rates of other organizations or other rates of yours from the past is benchmarking.

If I know my average absenteeism rate, do I still need benchmarking?

Yes. You need benchmarking so you can tell if a negative trend is a result of what is going on internally in your company, or if there is a change in the overall market and workforce for your industry that everyone in the industry is facing.

Benchmarking is a simple concept, but it is only meaningful if you compare the rate in your organization to those of similar organizations. If a restaurant owner looks at the national average for all industries, they will be comparing their absence rate to those of auto shops, supermarkets, and mass transit authorities.

If the same owner looks at the national average for the restaurant industry, they will get a better sense of the labor market for cooks, servers, and bartenders. To fine-tune the comparison, they can look at rates in their state or region.

7 ways to lower your absenteeism rate

There are numerous ways to reduce your absence rate. Here are 6 ideas to get you started:

  1. Encourage employees to take sick days when they need them. This may seem counterintuitive, but allowing employees to stay home when they’re sick can actually help reduce the spread of illness in the workplace. Additionally, it shows employees that their wellbeing is a priority to the company, which can encourage them to be more engaged and productive when they are at work.
  2. Implement flexible work policies. Giving employees some flexibility in their schedules can go a long way towards reducing absenteeism. This could involve letting employees work from home on occasion or allowing them to have a more flexible start and end time to their day. Employees who feel like they have some control over their schedules are less likely to call out sick when they don’t really need to.
  3. Offer incentives for good attendance. Employees who have good attendance records can be rewarded with things like bonus pay, paid time off, or even just public recognition. This helps to show that the company values employees who are present and available to work.
  4. Create clear policies and ensure they are enforced. It’s important to have clear policies in place that define what is and isn’t acceptable. Employees need to know what the consequences are for excessive absenteeism, and those consequences should be consistently enforced. This will help to discourage employees from calling out sick unnecessarily.
  5. Educate employees on the importance of good attendance. Many employees may not realize the impact that their absenteeism has on the company. By educating employees on the costs of absenteeism, both in terms of money and productivity, you can help them understand why it’s so important to be at work when they’re scheduled.
  6. Keep communication lines open. If an employee is having difficulty with their attendance, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. This way, you can identify any underlying issues and help find a solution that works for both the employee and the company.
  7. Support health and wellness. Employees who are unhealthy are more likely to be absent from work. By encouraging a healthy lifestyle, companies can help to reduce absenteeism. This could include things like offering on-site gym memberships or providing wellness training.

By implementing some or all of these strategies, you can help reduce absenteeism in your workplace. Creating a healthy and productive workforce starts with ensuring that employees are present and available to do their jobs.

How to easily monitor absenteeism and employee call-outs

Tracking attendance and absenteeism doesn’t have to be a tedious process. Automation is the key to managing your absenteeism rate while having more freedom to focus on business growth.

Calculating your absenteeism rate is easy, but taking time to regularly record and monitor attendance can be labor-intensive.

Automating all of the processes involved in employee attendance – from data gathering at the moment a worker calls off their shift to reviewing a quarterly report of one-off absences vs. chronic absenteeism – means you are better positioned to prevent or overcome employee abuse of your attendance policies.

An employee call-off system from CMS stores documentation relating to a specific absence – available at the push of a button to protect your organization in legal or compliance disputes.

Would you like to see how a call-off hotline and attendance automation can help you? Learn more here or see our plans and pricing.