Absenteeism vs. presenteeism – which is worse for the remaining staff?

New research by BrightHR reveals UK employee absence and lateness trends in 2018:

19th of June the most popular day for UK employees to call in sick;

Bath was the city with the highest staff sicknesses;

Newcastle upon Tyne was the city with the lowest staff sicknesses;

The average time staff turned up late to work was 36 minutes;

Wednesday was the most popular day of the week to call into work sick;

Dave and Sarah were the male and female names most likely to take a sick day;

January was the month with the highest level of sickness;

Seventy-seven per cent of employees had unused holiday left over by the end of 2018.


2018 was a rollercoaster of a year. The start of the year saw the cold wave of Beast from the East hit the UK, then we all got swept up in World Cup fever and were treated to one of the hottest summers in over a decade.  In the UK, the most popular day to call in sick was the 19th of June, as hungover workers called in sick after celebrating Harry Kane’s last minute winner against Tunisia in their first World Cup 2018 game the day before.

BrightHR Chief Technical Officer, Alastair Brown commented,

This year’s data has been able to give us a real insight into employees’ absence and lateness. One surprising discovery was that Wednesday, not Monday, was the day that most employees were late to work on, what we now call, wake-up-late Wednesday. With line issues and the timetable chaos in the summer, it’s easy to see why ‘transport’ was the most used reason for arriving to work late, with ‘traffic’ only just beating ‘sleeping in’.

Sickness skyrocketed in January, in comparison to the rest of the months in the year, with almost double the amount of users calling in sick. Whether employees were genuinely unwell or had a serious case of January blues will remain unknown. There’s also some bad news if you have a Dave or Sarah in your workplace, as those were the two names that had the most days off sick in 2018.

Worryingly, by the end of 2018, 77 per cent of employees had unused holiday left over, which has been a worrying presenteeism trend as employees aren’t getting the rest they require to properly fulfil their jobs. In terms of annual leave, August was the most popular month for employees to take off as holiday, as temperatures reached highs of 30 degrees throughout the UK. Interestingly, the morning after England’s 2-1 defeat to Croatia in the World Cup semi-final saw the highest number of annual leave cancellations as 10 per cent of holidays booked for the day after the World Cup final had been cancelled by 10 am.

To summarise, from BrightHR’s findings, we can see that good absence management is imperative for a business as it can increase efficiency and reduce the impact of day-to-day staff absences.

Interested in optimizing the performance of your workforce? We recommend the Optimising Performance Through Organisational Design training day.





Aphrodite is a creative writer and editor specialising in publishing and communications. She is passionate about undertaking projects in diverse sectors. She has written and edited copy for media as varied as social enterprise, art, fashion and education. She is at her most happy owning a project from its very conception, focusing on the client and project research in the first instance, and working closely with CEOs and Directors throughout the consultation process. Much of her work has focused on rebranding; messaging and tone of voice is one of her expertise, as is a distinctively unique writing style in my most of her creative projects. Her work is always driven by the versatility of language to galvanise image and to change perception, as it is by inspiring and being inspired by the wondrous diversity of people with whom paths she crosses cross!

Aphrodite has had a variety of high profile industry clients as a freelancer, and previously worked for a number of years as an Editor and Journalist for Prospects.ac.uk.

Aphrodite is also a professional painter.