Employee absence, especially unplanned absences, impact companies in several ways – especially when it comes to productivity. The most apparent reason for this is the reduced output that results from having fewer employees. This has the potential to be a significant bottleneck if a company has a compact workforce and/or it’s a busy period for them.

On the other side of the coin, however, are the remaining employees who have to pick up the slack. Short-term, if they feel pressured or rushed, this may cause the quality of their work to dip. Longer term, if it happens frequently, it could cause them to burnout. Worse, they could start to resent both their absent colleagues and the company, negatively influencing company culture. 

To avoid such scenarios within your company, it’s important to measure employee absence; this post explores a few ways to do just that. 

Why measure employee absence?

It’s crucial to measure employee absence to maintain your company’s productivity and protect its culture. 

Firstly, measuring staff absence can tell you more about each of your employee’s performance and attitude. Let’s face it, every company makes hiring mistakes. Employees often aren’t who they presented themselves to be during the recruitment process or aren’t as well suited to the job as either party would have hoped. 

Similarly, for a variety of reasons, an employee’s attitude and motivation can change, affecting their performance. Put another way, somewhere along the line, a breach of the psychological contract occurred between you and the employee. 

Secondly, measuring employee absence helps you to identify unseen trends and solve problems you weren’t previously aware of.  Consequently, you can be proactive regarding unplanned absences instead of reactive. The adage “what you don’t know won’t hurt you doesn’t apply to business, especially when it comes to your most important asset – your people. The more you know, the better you can support your workforce.

How to measure employee absence?

Here are three common methods for measuring employee absence. 

Lost time rate

Lost time rate is a measure of absence as a percentage of the total working time available.

For example, let’s say an employee can work a possible maximum of 150 hours in a month (7.5 hours a day x 5 days x 4 weeks (37.5 x 4). Then, the employee is absent for three days in a month, amounting to 22.5 hours lost.

The lost time rate is calculated as follows:

  • (22.5 (hours lost) ÷ 150 (total possible hours) x 100) = 15%

After using any of these methods to measure employee absence, you could then calculate the average rate for all employees to get a company average rate of absence.

Frequency rate

The frequency rate measures the average rate of absence for the company as a whole for a given period, expressed as a percentage. It’s calculated by simply dividing the number of absences by the number of employees. 

The main benefit of the frequency rate is that it’s easy to calculate. Its main drawback, however, is that it doesn’t account for the length of absences or which employees are most frequently absent.  

For example, you have 32 employees and had 7 absences over a given timespan: 

  • (7 (absences) ÷ 32 (employees) x 100) = 21.8%

Bradford Factor

Finally, there’s the Bradford Factor method, which doesn’t measure absence but rather attempts to measure the impact of an employee’s unplanned absences on a business. In this way, it can be useful in identifying potential problems with particular employees. 

An employee’s Bradford Factor score (B) is calculated as follows:  S2 x D = B, where:

  • S = the number of the employee’s total separate absences in a year
  • D = total number of days off

For example:

  • 5 one-day absences: 5 x 5 x 5 = 125
  • Conversely, 1 seven-day absence: 1 x 1 x 7 = 7

However, as detailed in our previous post on Bradford Factor Triggers, this method has its flaws. The most glaring of which is that a single absence, whether a day or a week, counts as 1. This means that you could unfairly penalise an employee who’s chronically ill or, similarly, someone who was sick but returned to work too quickly, and then required more time off.

Also, it doesn’t account for when these absences are: the 7-day absence in the above example could have been at a busy time – while some of the single-day absences could have occurred in quiet periods. 

ScheduleLeave’s powerful and easy-to-use reporting tools make it simple to measure employee absence and identify important trends that would otherwise slip by unnoticed. Sign up for your free trial to discover how it much it can help your company.