What is the Absence Rate?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 11 March 2020
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The absence rate is a ratio reflecting the absenteeism in a given industry or occupation. It is unusual to see an absence rate above five percent. Numerous organizations are involved in the collection and processing of labor statistics, including information on absenteeism, and publish data on a regular basis to provide information about trends in employment and the workplace. If a workplace has an unusually high absence rate, it can be a sign of an underlying issue like unsafe or hostile working conditions.

People may be absent from work for a variety of reasons. When calculating the absence rate, statisticians usually do not consider the reason. People absent for illness, childcare reasons, and so forth are all bundled together, along with people who do things like missing work to attend a professional conference. The absence rate is determined solely by looking at the frequency of absences among full time workers. Statistics can be compiled by taking reports form individual companies, as well as interviewing employees on their work habits. A broad sampling is taken to avoid skewing the results.


Statisticians who focus on labor topics may also be interested in the costs of absenteeism. Missed work is generally deemed a loss for a business, for a variety of reasons. Some companies provide sick pay, and thus an absent employee costs money without contributing anything to the company. In other cases, having a missing employee necessitates hiring a temporary replacement, shuffling other employees around, delaying projects, and taking other steps to compensate. All of these steps can cost money for the company, and these may add up significantly across a whole workforce.

In statistical breakdowns, people usually show the absence rate by industry or occupation. This highlights specific trends, such as a high rate among education workers when compared with construction workers. Looking at individual occupations can provide more information on specific industries. This information can be used to provide estimates about the cost of absenteeism in particular industries and to identify occupations with an unusually high rate of absenteeism.

Annual absence rate statistics are usually available, and most organizations maintain records so people can compare data from previous years. The best source for recent data is usually a government agency charged with keeping labor statistics. For more detailed discussions of specific industries and trends, it can sometimes be helpful to review trade journals and related publications. These resources can provide more context and analysis for readers.


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