Top 10 Underlying Causes of Absenteeism in the Workplace.

Understanding the underlying causes of absenteeism is crucial for organisations in the Netherlands aiming to mitigate its impact on productivity and employee well-being. In this article we are providing you with the top 10 underlying causes of absenteeism in the workplace.


  • Sickness means, as a result of a physical or mental condition, the employee is not able to perform or fully perform the work agreed to during the term of employment.
  • Reintegration [reintegratie], a term used in the Netherlands, means working towards full recovery (if possible) and is the main objective.

The rules and mandatory steps how to deal with the absenteeism are described in an Absenteeism Work Place Policy.

Research by Mercer shows only 35% of employers know the cause of absenteeism of their employees. Absenteeism can be prevented, controlled, and influenced by employers. In order to influence the Sick Leave, it is first important to know the underlying causes of absenteeism.

Causes of Absenteeism in the Workplace

1. Not Registering Short-Term Illness

It is a common approach by companies to not register short-term absenteeism of one or a few days. However, it is extremely important to take into account the fact that more than 50% of employees with a high absenteeism frequency eventually become ill for a long period of time.

Registration also shows whether a pattern can possibly be found in the sick reports. Occupational Health & Safety Service providers offer a system as part of their service to track sick leave and upload the required forms and reports during sick leave. It would be recommended to use this system.

2. High Workload and Stress

Performance will become under pressure when there is a high workload and stress. Employees who are under stress due to work or personal reasons could get sick more often when there is a long-term high workload. Whilst managers cannot mitigate all of the stress of employees, it is important to check-in regularly with employees and identify if solutions need to be put in place.

3. Harassment and Bullying

Harassment and bullying have a major influence on the performance of employees. A Code of Conduct and bullying and harassment policy should be in place to encourage employees to report any harassment incidents.

4. Alcohol and Drugs

It is clear that the use of alcohol and drugs will increase risks in the workplace and may result in accidents and/or absence leave.

5. Childcare Issues

Parents who have issues finding a childcare facility may find it difficult to find a work-life balance schedule. These issues could be solved by implementing a Flexible Way of Working policy or stimulate working remotely. The employees should also make use of the available mandatory leave of absence types, such as Parental Leave, Short-term and Long-term Care Leave.

6. Financial Problems

Employees having a problematic financial situation effect on their concentration, and motivation. Solutions could be offered by the company in the form of wellbeing programmes.

7. Organisational Culture and Change

Company evolution and organisational restructure might lead to well-being issues of employees. Questions may arise, such as, “Can I keep up with these changes? How does it affect my job? And isn’t it better to call in sick to avoid dismissal.”

Many thoughts are of influence on the motivation, concentration and commitment of employees. Depending on the extent to which this plays a role, it can lead to long-term illness.

8. Employee Disengagement

The importance of employee engagement activities in any organisation cannot be stressed enough. An employee survey ultimately impacts a company’s and is key measuring organisational success. There are multiple solutions to increase the working morale, such as holding employee survey and having an internal communication plan in place.

9. Poor Working Conditions

The workplace is directly related to health & safety and therefore the well-being of the employees. Evidence shows that poorly designed work, or work with psychosocial risks, can result in stress and mental ill health, such as anxiety and depression.

10. Lack of Innovation and Technology

Inefficient technology and ineffective HR processes are frustrating for employees.

Lack of innovation can quickly lead to a company being left with products or services that have no market need or the company gets out of business. In the long run, innovation needs to be a core component of any organisation’s culture, otherwise employee disengagement will grow.

In conclusion, absenteeism can be attributed to various underlying causes, including health issues, work-related stress, lack of job satisfaction, and personal factors.

Identifying and addressing these root causes of absenteeism through proactive measures, providing support for employees, and implementing effective management strategies are essential steps towards reducing absenteeism and fostering a more productive workforce.

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