Clarification of Answer by
22 Jun 2003 03:45 PDT
Sorry - obviously that was only part of the answer - my cut and paste
did not work properly. Here is the full answer:
Hi, Brick !
"Theft of time" is not usually associated with absenteeism. Rather, as
Laureen Snider says::
""If, for example, you take too long on your coffee break, of if you
surf the net when you 'should' be looking at something that is
directly relevant to the employer's interest, you are guilty of the
offense of theft of time...You are stealing the employer's money by
taking their time." Source:
Spies Online bears out this interpretation at:
as does IFPO at:
"Theft of time occurs when an employee is paid for time which they did
not work. Usually this happens through the falsifying of time records.
Technically theft of time can also include employees who are not
working while on the job, though legally this is more difficult to
Absenteeism and the abuse of leave provisions is considered a separate
A very dense scholarly report by the Australasian Faculty of
Occupational Medicine can be found in a .pdf file at:
Among other things it found that:
"Whilst the incidence of illness increased with age, the incidence of
absence that resulted from illness did not."
It quotes a Telecom study of absences where a medical certificate was
provided (not necessary in Australia for absences of less than three
days) which found that 25% of these absences were felt to be
attributed to smoking or alcohol.
In this study it was found that 30% of employees accounted for 70% of
leave taken but this was felt to be accounted for by a sizeable
minority of chronically ill employees.
It also states that;
"Those with family responsibilities in general and in particular
working adults with young children experience higher degrees of
Distance from work, with real or perceived transport difficulties,
also increased absenteeism.
Increased working hours and overtime led to increased absenteeism.
There was less absenteeism where flexible hours were worked than where
the hours were fixed.
Maureen Smith has a basic article on leave abuse at:
She stresses the importance of having a sick leave policy:
"Sick leave is a necessary benefit for all employees. If an employer
didn't offer sick leave, they would accelerate health problems and the
spread of illness, thereby lowering productivity and morale. Despite
the pressure for perfect attendance to improve customer service and
efficiency, employees need equitable sick leave programs for security
and overall high performance."
In regard to abuse of sick leave, she states:
"Determining if and why employees exploit leave policies is important.
Just as an employer analyzes turnover, the organization should also
look at sick leave trends. Is leave usage higher in one department or
under a particular supervisor? Are workplace practices or policies
affecting absences? Do children's illnesses in turn lead to your
staff's time-off? Finding the root cause of problems helps in
addressing the core issues."
An Australian report by the New South Wales Department of commerce can
be found at:
Among other things it asks:
"Why does absenteeism occur?
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, sick leave and
unapproved absences account for 58.7% of all leave taken (cat no.
6342.0, Aug 1997, page 31). This finding is supported by a recent
Australian survey where 12.4% of respondents surveyed admitted that
none of their "sickies" were genuine. Work life issues, which include
stress, entitlement mentality, personal needs and family issues, were
The Morgan and Banks survey concluded that companies needed to change
the culture of not allowing time off other than for sick, and
identifying genuine cases of sick leave instead.
.... 451 respondents surveyed in the US suggested introducing flexible
scheduling, on-site child care, leave for school functions, compressed
work week, and job sharing to combat the problem."
That is, there is very little evidence for the perception that people
generally abuse their leave entitlements to go to the beach, go to the
races or otherwise indulge in leisure activities. Rather they are
claiming sickness when other life issues arise, since there is no
provision for leave in those circumstances.
This site has an interesting list of strategies an employer can
implement to reduce absenteeism, and a case study where an incentive
scheme produced good results.
The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working
Conditions, based in Dublin, has a report at:
The study covered eight countries, with local variations in
regulations and their implementation. It points out that Insurance
Companies often cover the absenteeism risk as well as health care for
the sick worker. They state that although there is some cynicism on
the issue, "it is absolutely clear that ill health is the main reason
for workers to be absent from work."
A 1998 Canadian study by the Canadian Lifestyle and Fitness Research
Institute can be found at::
As it is a .pdf file I cannot cut and paste so I will summarize a few
They surveyed 50,000 employees of larger companies with Workplace
Health programmes in place. They were thus not completely
representative of Canadian workers in general.
Roughly 2/3 of employees had taken some sick leave during the previous
12 months.. 25% missed up to 2 days., 24% 3-5 days, 13% 6 - 10 days,
and 9% over 2 weeks.
Relationships between absenteeism and education showed that the more
highly educated were less likely to report absences of more than 10
days, but more likely to have taken 1-5 days away. Managers, as
opposed to sales service or trades staff, were also more likely to
report short absences.
The physical work environment has a significant impact on the number
of absences. The more concerned the employee about the physical
working environment and/or health an safety issues, the higher their
rate of absenteeism from ill health.
Stress through various aspects of the social environment at work -
management practices, job control, etc. - also produces a rise in
health concerns and absenteeism commensurate with the degree of
concern about the issue or issues.
The study also found that absenteeism through ill health also directly
related to home related stresses such as relationship problems or
family worries. The more diverse the problems, the more days off.
There was no difference between the numbers of men and women taking
more than 10 days off who reported concern over stress factors. Women
were more likely than me to take between 1-10 days off regardless of
stress factors, probably due to factors such as illness in young
Women are more likely to respond to pressure from outside the
workplace; men to respond to pressures within the workplace.
Increased absenteeism was linked to the use of medication and smoking,
but unexpectedly not to heavy alcohol use or physical inactivity.
(It seems to me unsurprising that people who are on medication
perceive themselves as sicker than people who are not medicated.)
Employees who felt in control of their health, in control of their
work situation and/or having a support network have considerably lower
levels of absenteeism.
An article by the OMA Committee on Work and Health (Alice Dong, MD,
Chair, Lisa Doupe, MD, Michael Ross, MD, Edward Gardiner, MD, James
Mendel) on absenteeism and mental illness can be found at:
It is mainly concerned with return to work programmes for depressed
patients, but points out that:
"Mental illness is widely acknowledged to be a leading cause of
workplace absenteeism and a major correlate of general work-related
illness. In 2000, it is estimated that depressive disorders ranked
second among the most common reasons for visiting a physician in
Canada, after high blood pressure."
Some people get very hot under the collar about this issue. The
University of Albany comes up with a particularly silly statement at:
Here they suggest that:
"Abuse of sick leave is particularly difficult because it cannot be
Presumably they expect all employees to give prior notice of when they
intend to be sick ? !!! Nevertheless, they have some sensible ideas
for putting procedures in place:
"DEALING WITH SICK LEAVE ABUSE - CORRECTIVE ACTION
There is no hard and fast rule as to when sick leave use becomes
inappropriate. Excessive absenteeism is one potential abuse; so might
be an observable pattern of absences wherein a disproportionate number
of absences occur in conjunction with weekend or other pass days, or
the substitution of sick leave for annual or personal leave..... Each
case must be handled individually and the particular facts and
circumstances carefully considered and evaluated. ...
When sick leave abuse is suspected, the supervisor should hold an
informal discussion with the employee, ascertain the reason for use,
and advise the employee of the supervisor's concerns. In many cases a
legitimate explanation will emerge, and no further action need be
If the issue does not relate to specific days but to a pattern of use
or excessive use, formal counselling should ensue. Supervisors should
keep in mind that counselling is intended to be positive and
constructive; it is not meant to be disciplinary. . "
The consensus seems to be that the majority of leave taken under the
name of sick leave is either as a result of genuine illness, which may
or may not be exacerbated by concerns over stress factors in the
workplace itself or at home, or it is taken because home or family
issues have arisen and there is no obvious workplace provision for
applying for leave in those circumstances.
Older people on the whole seem to be better attendees, in spite of any
medical problems they may be experiencing and the parent of young
children is likely to be a heavy user of leave provisions. Lack of
flexibility in work requirements such as hours of attendance leads to
more absenteeism, as does a difficult or unpleasant work environment.
My personal observation is that many companies make it impossible for
an employee to credit a single day's absence against their annual
holiday entitlement or even to take "leave without pay" for a single
day. People who need a day off because of a family crisis therefore
claim sick leave, because there is no other mechanism in place.
Thank you for an interesting question.
absenteeism abuse sick leave
theft of time