I conducted research some years ago on absence management policies and procedures and read and learnt several interesting things.

The Rhodes and Steers (1981, 1990) process model of attendance includes causes of absence and a variety of interrelated processes. The model focuses on attendance motivation and the ability to attend. They suggest that job satisfaction is determined by the job situation, e.g. difficult working hours, and moderated by employee values and job expectations which are influenced by employees’ personal characteristics and life experiences which Rhodes and Steers (1981) claim can change over employees’ careers or job tenure.

Presenteeism, the practice of going to work when sick, is increasing and may result in lack of productivity and/or counterproductivity. Attending work while ill spreads the illness to co-workers and lowers productivity in terms of not only quality but quantity. Presenteeism is in fact a hidden cost to employers and results in reduced productivity. An employee’s failure to take the needed time off can cause the illness to linger and lead to longer absence later on. High levels of presenteeism are related to high levels of absenteeism. Some of the ailments identified as symptoms of presenteeism include respiratory problems, migraines or headaches, back pain, arthritis, depression and gastro-intestinal disorders. The costs of presenteeism may exceed those of absenteeism with its effects on organisational productivity and performance.

The motivation to attend is determined by job satisfaction and several pressures to attend including economic/market conditions and organisational commitment. Even if an employee is motivated to attend work there are factors which may affect the ability to attend such as illness, family responsibilities and transportation problems.

These are some of the factors which organisations must consider when they are looking at reasons for employee absence. This understanding can help identify trends, offer support to employees and use preventative as opposed to punitive methods to minimise employee absence. A change in organisational culture to promote health and wellbeing, allow flexible working arrangements, the presence of trained and supportive managers can all help reduce employee absence levels and build a healthy and productive workforce.

There is progress to be made and collectively we can do it.


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).