Absent workers cost economy $16 billion in 2012: Report

Only 15 per cent of employers measuring direct costs
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 09/23/2013

The average Canadian worker was absent the equivalent of almost two full work weeks in 2011. These absences — which can range from time off for minor illnesses to longer-term leaves of absence — cost the Canadian economy an estimated $16.6 billion in 2012, according to a Conference Board of Canada study.

The direct annual cost of absenteeism, based on survey data provided by organizations to the Conference Board, averaged 2.4 per cent of gross annual payroll — which translated to a loss of $16.6 billion in 2012.

The average absenteeism rate in Canada in 2011, based on Statistics Canada data, was 9.3 days per full-time employee. The public sector absenteeism rate (12.9 days) was higher than that of the private sector (8.2 days).

And among unionized workers, the absenteeism rate was 13.2 days, compared to 7.5 days for non-unionized employees.

Although precise comparisons can be difficult to make, Canada’s absenteeism rate is high when measured against countries such as the United States or the United Kingdom, said the Conference Board. Various studies have estimated U.S. and U.K. absenteeism rates at between five and seven days annually per employee.

In 2012, 46 per cent of employers reported they track absenteeism by dates, a slight increase from 40 per cent in the Conference Board’s 2009 survey. But only 15 per cent of organizations measured the direct cost of absenteeism, which is unchanged from the 2009 results.

“Absenteeism is more than a human resources issue. Unless organizations start proactively addressing absenteeism, this trend will most likely accelerate as the workforce ages,” said Nicole Stewart, author of Missing in Action: Absenteeism Trends in Canadian Organizations. “Organizations can begin to address the issues through better tracking of the number of absences and reasons for absenteeism.”

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