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October 24, 2021

Age a growing factor in workplace absenteeism: report

According to the most recent numbers, absenteeism rates in Canada have been rising over the past 10 years, jumping from roughly seven days lost per worker annually to more than 10 currently.

And much of this has to do with demographics, according to a recent study from the C.D. Howe Institute.

As the demographic weight of the population shifts from younger to older categories, reported sick days rise significantly, the report claims. For example, men ages 45 to 54 report an average of 1.3 more days lost due to illness than do males 35 to 44.

Age is not the only factor keeping people off the job, of course.

Over the past 25 years, the average number of days lost per year due to illness has remained largely unchanged among men but increased sharply among women. 

That's not that surprising when you consider that women are usually the principal caregiver for children and may take time off “sick” to look after them. As well, a higher proportion of women than men work part-time, skewing the numbers accordingly.

When workplace policy allows generous sick-leave provisions, employees will be likely to use them, and apparently to a greater degree in unionized settings, the report suggests. 

Public-sector workers report more workplace absences than do private-sector employees. Workers in unionized settings, in which female participation has grown tremendously, take more sick leave days than those in non-union settings.

This is a disturbing trend since studies show that such workplace absenteeism can be contagious.

"There is some tendency to treat absence as a personal, individual performance issue and ignore the fact that it is under considerable social control. People imitate the attendance behaviour of their peers," says Concordia University professor Gary Johns

What's the situation where you work? Are you seeing more people booking off sick? Does age seem to be a factor? 

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...