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The impact of absenteeism

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The US economy loses over $2 billion to absenteeism each year, with the cost per employee ranging from $16 to $286 per day.1 Learn about its impact on the MENA region.

The causes: Many factors can contribute to absenteeism, but the main causes are:

  • Low job satisfaction and lack of responsibility – In the MENA region, they were tied as the leading causes at 22.7% each.2
  • Bullying – If an employee is bullied or harassed at work they are more likely to be absent in order to avoid the situation
  • Stress and depression – Stressful work environments, heavy workloads, depression, and mental health issues account for the most work days lost in the UK, over 70 million per year3. In Canada, stress and depression account for more instances of absenteeism than does back pain.4
  • Illness and injury – Illness, injuries, and medical appointments are some of the most common reasons given by employees for missing work.
  • The implications: In the MENA region, 53% of respondents stated that the level of absenteeism in their workplaces was moderate or high. This comes with a high price tag, due to the combined cost of wages paid to absent employees and reduced productivity

The solution:

  • Emphasize employee well-being. Making the move toward mandatory sick leave might seem counterintuitive, yet it results in less absenteeism over the long run.6,7
  • Allow flexible work. It won’t create a gap in productivity and will result in fewer cases of absenteeism.5
  • Ultimately, employees want to feel safe and cared for by their company, which is why employee wellness programmes seem to be more effective. This helps boost employee morale, which in turn increases commitment to the company, and consequently increases productivity.6,7
  • Absenteeism is a difficult problem, but there are ways to reduce it. In the MENA region, 51% of survey respondents stated that the best way for their companies to lower the absenteeism rate was to recognize regular, punctual attendance—and then reward it.2

To learn how Cigna can help you to improve employee attendance and engagement, send an email to mesales@cigna.com.


  1. Mental Health Foundation. Managing mental health in the workplace. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/CR00233_Ebook_dualbranded_interactive.pdf. Accessed 13 September 2017.
  2. Bayt.com Infographic: Absenteeism in the Workplace in the Middle East & North Africa. (2012, July 2). Retrieved October 24, 2017, from https://www.bayt.com/en/research-report-13862
  3. Witters, D. Gallup. In U.S., Poor Health Tied to Big Losses for All Job Types. http://www.gallup.com/poll/162344/poor-health-tied-big-losses-job-types.aspx. 2013. Accessed 13 September 2017.
  4. Shepell•fgi Research Group. Employee Engagement & Health: An EAP's Role & Perspective. https://www.shepell.com/en-ca/knowledgeandmedia/news/research%20report/pdf/EmployeeEngagementandHealth.pdf. Accessed 18 September 2017.
  5. EurWORK. Absence from work. https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/observatories/eurwork/comparative-information/absence-from-work. 2010. Accessed 13 September 2017.
  6. Truman, D. Ohio companies try to encourage employees not to take sick days. Knight Ridder Tribune Business News. 2003. https://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-110274691.html. Accessed 18 September 2017.
  7. Berry LL, Mirabito AM, Baun WB. What’s the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs?. Harvard Business Review. 2010. https://hbr.org/2010/12/whats-the-hard-return-on-employee-wellness-programs. Accessed 18 September 2017.
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