If you’ve experienced an increase in costs to your business as a result of employee absence or unproductivity, you’re not alone. Known as ‘absenteeism’ and ‘presenteeism’, there are several reasons why you might see these patterns emerge in the workplace. But increasingly, it could be because of employee money worries.

In this article, we break down the ways in which the financial concerns of your employees could impact your business. We also share insights on industries most impacted by increasing rates of absenteeism and presenteeism and considerations for how you could offer support.

Unless otherwise stated, statistics are from ‘Financial wellbeing and productivity in the workplace’ – a report commissioned by Aegon from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) in September 2023.

What is absenteeism and presenteeism?

Absenteeism and presenteeism is more than just a sick day or occasionally procrastinating at work. If you’re not familiar with the terms, here’s a quick overview.

What is absenteeism?

Absenteeism is when employees regularly miss work beyond what’s considered an acceptable level. This could be for many reasons, such as illness, stress – or indeed money troubles. It’s estimated that absenteeism due to financial distress cost UK employers £3.7 billion in 2023 – up from £2.5 billion in 2021.

What is presenteeism?

Unlike absenteeism, employees suffering from presenteeism still attend work but are much less productive due to being distracted by physical or mental challenges. Presenteeism from financial distress stands at more than double the cost of absenteeism, at £6.6 billion. This is up from £3.7 billion in 2021.

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How is employee financial stress impacting your workplace?

The results from the CEBR report suggest a significant rise in employee financial stress since the last survey in 2021. A lot has happened in these years. From the rising cost of living, interest rates driving higher mortgage payments, soaring private rents, and geopolitical events like the war in Ukraine.

Here are four key findings to help you understand how financial stress and broader wellbeing could directly impact your business and employees on a daily basis.

1. Absenteeism from financial distress costs employers an estimated £237 per day

In the last two years, 12% of employees have taken time off work due to money worries. On average, this is a loss of almost five workdays per employee each year. At an estimated cost of £237 per day, the cost to your business could add up quickly.

Not only that, but the absence of a team member can cause knock-on effects to the productivity of other employees, incurring further costs to your business.

2. Employees with presenteeism lose an average 2.6 hours per day

Presenteeism as a result of money worries, rose significantly from 14.8% in 2021 to 19.3% in 2023. The increase aligns with the declining economic outlook in the UK and highlights the impact that low financial wellbeing could have on your business.

With covering basic living costs still a priority for many people, some employees might feel unable to take time off if it means losing a day’s wages.

3. Younger employees are more likely to be affected by both absenteeism and presenteeism

If you have a larger proportion of younger employees, you might notice higher levels of absenteeism and presenteeism from money worries.

Employees aged 16-34 made up a 33.3% share of those reporting absenteeism from money worries – in comparison with just 5.8% of employees over 45. Similar patterns were found in regard to presenteeism, with younger employees more likely to be affected.  

One reason for this could be that younger employees might have less financial security than their older counterparts. Earlier in their careers, lower salaries matched with rising costs of living and potential debts such as student loans could increase their vulnerability to financial struggles.

4. 55% feel their work is meaningless/lacking purpose

Employee wellbeing isn’t just about money. The report includes some concerning indications that employees are struggling with a lack of meaning in their work and have uncertainty about their life’s direction. These thoughts can cause distractions leading to presenteeism.

The CEBR notes that as many people experience higher costs of living and lower disposable incomes, the prominence of these negative thoughts is likely to increase.

What industries are most affected by absenteeism and presenteeism from money worries?

Almost every industry has seen a rise in presenteeism and absenteeism due to employee money worries. Here’s how the impact on different industries have changed between the 2021 and 2023 studies, with some key takeaways to note.

Industries most affected by absenteeism due to financial worries

Absenteeism as a result of employee financial stress

Industries most affected by presenteeism due to financial worries

Presenteeism as a result of employee financial stress

Key takeaways

● Health – the health sector has seen big increases in both absenteeism and presenteeism in the last two years. Absenteeism has almost doubled and presenteeism increased by 49%. This could be connected to the NHS strikes of 2023 and early 2024, which aim to achieve increased pay and better working conditions in light of long hours and staff shortages.

● Public administration and defence while still in the lower half of both lists, the public administration and defence industry has also seen one of the biggest increases in the last two years, with absenteeism and presenteeism both doubling. Some workers within this industry also took part in strikes in 2023, with protesters citing low pay against inflation.

● Production – the production industry has seen a sharp uptick in its rates too. Absenteeism has risen from 7.5% to 12%, while presenteeism has surged from 16% to 26.7%. With work-related stress and anxiety already prominent in this industry, it’s possible that the current economic climate has induced stress into employees’ finances too.

●  Construction – construction is the only sector that has seen a decrease in both absenteeism and presenteeism resulting from financial worries. This suggests that companies have worked hard to enhance the financial wellbeing of their employees.

Prioritising financial wellbeing for your employees and your business

The research shows that low employee financial wellbeing is driving costs to businesses through absenteeism and presenteeism. Addressing your employees’ concerns and supporting their financial wellbeing could help to build a happier, more resilient, and productive workforce.

Financial wellbeing isn’t just about the amount of money we have, it’s also about our mindset. So, while some factors might be out of your control, consider what actions you can take to make a positive difference to your employees’ financial wellbeing.

For example, offering financial education programs, workshops, or seminars on topics like budgeting, saving and planning for retirement, could improve their financial literacy. A wide range of benefits such as childcare vouchers or shopping discounts could also help them to save on everyday costs. Doing this could provide reassurance to your employees and demonstrate your commitment to them as an employer.

We want to help you make sure your employees understand the benefit of your workplace scheme, and for them to be more confident in taking control of their finances. You can learn more about supporting your employees with their financial wellbeing on our wellbeing hub. You’ll find a range of tips and tools to create your own campaigns, with a suit of ready-to-use assets and step by step guides to bring financial wellbeing into focus in your workplace.

By reducing the factors that disrupt financial wellbeing, you could foster a supportive work environment that contributes to a more engaged and productive team. In turn, you could benefit from less costs as a result of absenteeism and presenteeism in your business.

  1. 'Financial wellbeing and productivity in the workplace’ – a report commissioned by Aegon from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) in September 2023.


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