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  Table of Contents 
Year : 2013  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 39-40

Sickness absenteeism in the workplace: Sharing some personal experiences

Department of Occupational Health, Thane, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication17-Dec-2013

Correspondence Address:
J Kumar
Department of Occupational Health, Thane - 400 610, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-5278.123158

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How to cite this article:
Kumar J. Sickness absenteeism in the workplace: Sharing some personal experiences. Indian J Occup Environ Med 2013;17:39-40

How to cite this URL:
Kumar J. Sickness absenteeism in the workplace: Sharing some personal experiences. Indian J Occup Environ Med [serial online] 2013 [cited 2021 Jul 27];17:39-40. Available from:

  Background Top

  1. Absenteeism in workplace has multi-faceted reasons, with sickness being the key one. But then not all sickness absenteeism is attributable to sickness.
  2. Traditionally, all absenteeism authorized by a medical certificate from a doctor is classified under the heading of sickness absenteeism. Usually most companies provide 15 days of sick leave per year, which is not carried forward. Hence most of the workmen other than the management staff avail this irrespective of their health status according to their requirement.
  3. Sickness absenteeism is not a true reflector of prevailing sickness in the work place. The human resource department believes that it is the duty of a doctor to verify the legitimacy of the sickness reported by workmen. They tend to believe in the maxim "hire a thief to catch a thief."
  4. Ethically it is not the duty of the doctor to verify the genuineness of the medical certificate. Of course when the workmen report to work, it is the duty of the doctor to confirm that the workmen are fit to join work and he is not a liability to himself or others.
  5. The true reflector of health in the workplace is the mortality statistics of workmen dying during their working life-span. The analysis of the mortality causes will help in designing programs tailored to reduce the causes which will then result in workmen, realizing their full work potential of retiring healthily while at the same time ensuring optimum productivity at the work place.

  Steps Taken to Meet the Challenge Top

  1. The work place is an ideal place to carry out any prospective or retrospective studies as we had a captive work population. With all these in mind two programs were initiated:
    1. Retrospective analysis of sickness absenteeism without pay; and
    2. Maintenance of a mortality register.
  2. In the first program, the details of all the employees who have taken leave without pay over the previous 3 years was collated.
  3. A detailed questionnaire was prepared and these employees were interviewed personally by the doctor in addition to subjecting them to medical examination. Those employees who had taken leave without pay for the 3 previous consecutive years were labeled as habitual absentees and the reasons were analyzed.
  4. Before the start of the study it was made clear to both the management and the workmen that all the information obtained will be kept confidential by the medical department and it will not be used for any disciplinary action. On the contrary, it was emphasized that it will be used to help the workmen to take home his full salary and design medical programs to reduce habitual absenteeism.

  Outcome Top

  1. It was found that alcoholism and psychiatric disorders contributed mainly to the habitual absenteeism. One interesting fact which emerged was that conducting these types of surveys and monitoring itself reduced the absenteeism, as workmen felt that they were under surveillance.
  2. It is akin to a driver reducing the speed when the sign "patrol ahead" or "aerial surveillance ahead" is seen by him or just as a notice - "you are under video surveillance" reduces shoplifting in malls.
  3. In specific cases, doctors can talk to the treating doctor of the workmen to help the employee recover faster. This can have a collateral benefit of doctor becoming cautious in dishing out certificates mechanically to the workmen.
  4. As far as an analysis of the Mortality register is concerned, the indices indicated that myocardial infarction, cerebro-vascular accidents, malignancies, cirrhosis of liver, accidents outside workplace, tuberculosis were the main causes for death while in service.
  5. Smoking, alcoholism, diabetes, hypertension were key contributors resulting in the above mortalities.

  Solution Suggested Top

  1. Hence to improve the health of workmen which in turn will reduce absenteeism following steps given below was taken.
    1. Regular monitoring, counseling and guidance to the workmen.
    2. Liaison with the general physician with a view to help the workmen get proper treatment.
    3. Effective medical programs at work place for high risk categorized groups as below:
      • Alcoholic anonymous program
      • Smoking cessation program
      • Diabetes
      • Hypertension screening and treatment programs
      • Special programs like human immunodeficiency virus screening, awareness programs
      • Influenza vaccination program.
  2. Reaching out to family members of problem workers through medico social workers and treatment of illness at work place will also benefit workers as time spent outside his working hours to consult a doctor will be avoided. This will further establish a healthy bond between doctor and the worker.

  Recommendations and Conclusion Top

The above methodology can be replicated by any work place medical force at minimum expense with maximum benefit and it will be of use and readily acceptable to both workman and the management and in effect will benefit both the management and workmen.


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