Absenteeism in Ontario

Is one of your employees displaying a concerning trend of absence? You may be dealing with a case of employee absenteeism. Employee absenteeism occurs when an employee is absent for a prolonged period with no valid reason given.

Examples of a valid reason would include:

  • Scheduled vacation.
  • Absence due to sickness or injury.
  • Scheduled leave which the employee is entitled to under the Employment Standards Act (e.g. Family Responsibility Leave, Bereavement Leave, etc.).

Oftentimes absenteeism can be the result of mental health struggles burnout or general dissatisfaction with the company and/or role.

Employee absenteeism can be especially damaging to a company, particularly its productivity. Therefore, it’s essential that you do all you can to address it when you notice patterns of absenteeism.


Presenteeism is when an employee is present at work but shows a drop in performance due to sickness. Similar to absenteeism, presenteeism is damaging to a business's productivity. Employees often work when unwell due to pressures from management, harsh deadlines and worries about job security.

Signs of presenteeism: 

  • Working on days off.
  • Looking tired or unwell.
  • Skipping lunch and breaks.
  • Lateness.
  • Staying late and working after designated work hours.

Whether they know it or not, your staff needs time to recharge to do their job effectively. Overworked employees are more prone to make mistakes on the job. It's important that you address presenteeism as soon as you spot these signs before it damages your company's productivity.

Innocent absenteeism  

As an employer, your first course of action should be to ensure the employee is medically well and if they have a valid reason for being absent (e.g. injury or illness, sick family member, a death in the family, etc.). This would be considered “innocent absenteeism”. In this case, the employee would be required to provide the necessary documentation to prove the need for a leave or modification to their work/duties. If they do so, the employer has a duty to accommodate.

Progressive discipline

The next step is to utilize progressive discipline. Progressive discipline is a documented performance management process which considers accommodations and past performance. Your process for discipline should be detailed in your company’s polices. The process should take place in stages and feature an objective criteria. Examples of discipline may include verbal and written warnings. And if a solution cannot be found, termination of employment may be necessary.

Need help dealing with absenteeism?

If you’re dealing with a case of absenteeism in your workplace, Employer Line’s qualified experts are here to help. We’ll help you understand absenteeism and presenteeism, develop policies that inform how you address absenteeism and help you through the progressive discipline process. Call Employer Line today at 1-888-784-9158.