Below is a continuation on absence from previous research which I conducted:-

It can be claimed that job dissatisfaction reduces employees’ motivation to attend which leads to absence. It is argued that job satisfaction is the strongest determinant of employee absenteeism. Research supports Rhodes and Steers’ (1981, 1990) attendance model and has shown that job satisfaction, organisational commitment and employee motivation contribute to employee absence. In addition, research has also demonstrated the relationship among organisational commitment, job satisfaction and absence. The assertion is that committed employees are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and less likely to be absent. Organisational commitment was positively related to job satisfaction, motivation and attendance. It was also found that the more satisfied employees are in the workplace the more likely they are to attend. Taken this research into account there is a strong case for the distinct relationship between job satisfaction and employee absence.

Rhodes and Steers (1978, 1981) suggest that pressure to attend can affect attendance motivation. Economic or market conditions, e.g. the ease of securing another job, can influence attendance motivation. Incentives to attend such as attendance bonuses, rewards and recognition can also motivate an employee to attend work. Some contend that work-group norms of what is considered to be acceptable within the group and the effects on absence on other group members also have some influence on pressure to attend. Based on the Rhodes and Steers model, this situation where employees must cover the workload of an absent team member will promote a motivation to attend.

Organisational commitment is the extent to which an individual agrees with an organisation’s mission, values and goals. Committed employees feel a sense of responsibility to the organisation and do not wish to be absent because of the negative impact this could potentially have on the organisation. Allen and Meyer (1990) developed a three component model of organisational commitment-affective commitment, normative commitment and continuance commitment. Affective commitment is defined as an employee’s “emotional attachment to, identification with, and involvement in, the organisation”. Normative commitment refers to an employee’s “feelings of obligation to remain with the organisation” while continuance commitment refers to “commitment based on the costs that employees associate with leaving the organisation”. Research by Meyer et al. (2001) and Meyer et al. (2004) has found that affective commitment had the strongest positive correlation with job performance, organisational citizenship behaviour and attendance. Continuance commitment was found to be negatively correlated with these behaviours. This research suggests that employees are most committed to the organisation through their identification with the organisation’s values and beliefs and that not all forms of commitment necessarily support employee attendance.

Research considers voluntary absenteeism, where employees call in sick when they are well, to be withdrawal behaviour. Employees are generally demonstrating their frustration with the organisation by withdrawing from the workplace. Voluntary absence may reflect job dissatisfaction and lack of organisational commitment. There is an established link with job satisfaction and employee retention. They claim that increased job satisfaction is linked with a decreased intent to turnover. Employees who intent to quit are more likely to be engage in withdrawal behaviour and be absent from work.

In terms of ability to attend, family or domestic responsibilities can impact on employee absence irrespective of motivation to attend. Research consistently indicates that women are more likely to be absent from the workplace than men due largely to family responsibilities. Interestingly, Punnett et al. (2008) found in Barbados employees stayed away from work on account of bad weather. There is uncertainty as to the relationship between bad weather and employee absence. It is unclear if bad weather affected transportation to work or simply served as just cause to be absent.

Research, e.g. McHugh (2001), indicates that employee absence has direct and indirect costs. One direct cost is sick pay. The weekly rate of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) in the UK for days of sickness from 6 April 2018 is £92.05. Other direct costs are lost productivity and reduced productivity from temporary employees and returning employees. Indirect costs of employee absence include increased pressure on staff, low staff morale, overtime and additional staff (agency workers) costs. Employee absence can have a negative impact on those employees in the team who are left to cover for the absent employee. The remaining employees can suffer from stress as a result of having to operate in an understaffed environment. This in turn can potentially lead to low morale and a decrease in overall productivity. Employees with above average levels of absence place a strain on their co-workers who must cope with missed deadlines and customer demands. If individuals perceive that the absence is not genuine this can lead to resentment towards the absent employees and tensions in the work environment. Applying Rhodes and Steers (1981, 1990) process model these findings provide support for work group norms influencing attendance motivation.

Job satisfaction leads to employees who care more about their jobs and the quality of their work and are more productive. Therefore, it can be assumed that increased job satisfaction can lead to financial gains for an organisation. Organisational performance can be measured by profitability, productivity, labour turnover, employee morale, employee satisfaction and absenteeism. Lower levels of absenteeism can indicate employees are committed to the organisation and willing to contribute to organisational performance and the future of the business.

The imbalance of perceptions of the psychological contract, those unwritten expectations of both employer and employee, suggest that it manifests itself in lower levels of employee motivation, lack of organisational commitment, withdrawal behaviour leading to higher occurrence of employee absence and eventual turnover. In addition in examining employee absence in relation to performance it is useful to note Purcell et al’s (2003) model which incorporates AMO. The AMO theory of performance states that performance is a function of ability, motivation and the opportunity to contribute. Mathematically, this is represented with the equation P = f (A+M+O). This theory highlights the effects of HR policies and practices on employee ability, motivation and opportunity which further impact on organisational commitment, motivation and job satisfaction. The research literature suggests that the success of this model is highly dependent on front line management. Line managers are deemed to be those who can tap into employee potential and it is their involvement in the absence management process that has a direct impact of its effectiveness.

Organisational culture and national culture also impact on employee absence. Punnett et al. (2007) identified cultural differences in Barbados, e.g. Barbados is high on uncertainty avoidance defined by Hofstede (1980, 2001) as the degree to which societies feel threatened by ambiguous situations and try to avoid uncertain situations. On the other hand, the UK has low uncertainty avoidance. Taking into account the cultural differences between the UK and Barbados attitudes towards work will vary. Both cultures find work meaningful and worthwhile however Barbadian employees do not seek high levels of achievement (Punnett et al. 2007) and rather than solely focused on ascending the corporate ladder and achieving prestige they earn a salary while maintaining stable social and family networks. Barbadians’ desire to be close to family and friends is partially explained by the Barbadian society being somewhat collectivist (Punnett et al. 2008).

The tendency in Barbados to refer to one’s occupation as a job rather than a career shows a difference in work values. Working excessively long hours and hardly taking holidays is not part of the social norm. Observations indicate a cultural norm to establish some semblance of a work-life balance with a focus on the family. As it relates to employee absence, Barbadians’ balanced view of life and work (Punnett et al. 2007) indicates that they are less likely to suffer from work related stress, one of the primary causes of employee absence, than their British counterparts. It is socially acceptable to take time away from work for errands, family issues and to attend functions, e.g. PTA meetings, conferences, award ceremonies and funerals. With a relatively small working population, an employee is not fearful of losing his/her job on account of absence as there is a belief that an employer does not have many options of handling an employee absence as he/she cannot be easily replaced. This is changing with increasing global competition and the current economic climate however this outlook to work and employee absence is still prevalent.


Ms. Jolene King has over 15 years business management and HR international experience gained in the UK, USA and Barbados. She holds a MA degree in Human Resource Management from University of Derby, a MSc. degree in Industrial/Organisational Psychology from Florida Institute of Technology and a BSc. degree in Sociology with Psychology from University of the West Indies, Cave Hill. Ms. King is an active committee member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Northamptonshire branch and is an Associate member of the Society for Industrial and Organisational Psychology (SIOP).