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What are the different types of absence?

14 September 2023 6 min read

types of absence

The term employee absence or absence of work, is such a broad term and refers to any instance where an employee isn’t at work when they might have been otherwise.

Indeed, it might surprise you just how many different types of absence exist. Some forms of absence are an essential part of running an organisation. Others can be disruptive if you don’t manage them correctly.

There are 3 different areas when it comes to absence; authorised, unplanned, and unauthorised. All of which cover multiple different types of absence.

You may think that authorised absence is just holidays and unplanned absence is just sickness. There isn’t anything else to it. Yes, these are the two most popular forms of absence, however, if these are the only two types of absence you use when an employee is off, you are won’t be able to understand the reasons behind these absences.

By just using two absence types, you will never be able to help employees. How can you possibly know if an employee is off with stress, out at a conference, or taking time off in lieu? By using multiple absence types, you will know exactly where your employees are and can help them if they need it.

In this post, we’ll explore the three different types of absence and all the different forms that come under these absence types.

Authorised absence

Authorised absence is where an employee is away from work due to a pre-agreed reason. The most common forms of authorised absence are:


  1. Annual leave – Annual leave is the most common type of authorised absence, and it’s essential that staff take regular breaks from work. Employees that work flat-out without taking breaks will never be the most productive members of your team. All work and no play can also make stress and burnout more likely, which can be very bad for business and negatively impact employee wellbeing.
  2. Maternity and paternity leave – Maternity, paternity, and parental leave are all types of authorised absences. You will generally know months in advance of this, allowing you to plan accordingly.
  3. Lieu hours and days – This type of absence is only applicable if you allow offer TOIL. For those that do, allowing employees to book time off and set it to ‘Lieu Hours’ or ‘TOIL’ will make reporting and tracking much easier.
  4. Public holidays – Even public holidays are a form of authorised absence. For organisations that shut down on these days, they need to make it clear that employees aren’t required to come in. Some organisations offer flexible bank holidays, meaning employees can choose when to take these extra days of leave, rather than on the fixed dates.
  5. Training days – It can be really helpful for employees to see where their colleagues are. Training days and conferences are two absences that you may not have thought were absences. They are still working during that day, but, are away from the office, which therefore counts as an authorised absence.
  6. Medical appointment – Medical or doctor appointments are again planned so come under authorised absence. They tend to only last a couple of hours with most employees not even asking employees to work extra time to cover the time lost.

Unplanned absence

An unplanned absence is where an employee is off work due to an unforeseen reason. Whether you’re dealing with a minor illness or a serious case of mental ill-health, the effect is the same: a blow to employee wellbeing, coupled with some costly business disruption.

Again, the most common form of unplanned absence is an illness. However, there are many more different types of unplanned absences that can affect your business. Being able to select different reasons for unplanned absence, will allow you to identify any trends and help employees better.


  1. Sickness –Whether it is a common cold, fever, migraine, or stomach problems, any form of illness can be categorised as sickness.
  2. Injury – You may think that being injured is the same as being off sick, however, setting the absence to injured instead of off sick can help. If an employee is constantly off with a bad back, setting the absence as ‘Injured – Bad back’ will allow you to see if this is a common issue and advise accordingly.
  3. StressStress can be a huge issue for organisations and managing stress accordingly can improve employee wellbeing.
  4. Mental ill-health – Stress is not the only form of mental health absence, with anxiety and depression being just two of the many forms. Stress and anxiety are completely different and need to be treated as such.
  5. Emergency leave – There will be times when an emergency arises, and employees will need to take a couple of hours or even the day off. These tend to be very last minute but tend to not cause a huge amount of problems.


absence of work

Unauthorised absence

Unauthorised absence is where employees take time off work without letting you know, not necessarily because they’re suffering from ill health or injuries. Instead, they simply didn’t want to come to work that day. Isolated instances of unauthorised absence are frustrating but manageable. But if it keeps happening, it might suggest that you have many more serious issues to deal with than the odd lost day here and there.


  1. Unauthorised leave –  Not only do you run into all the same problems that you would have with unplanned absence – such as understaffing – you also have to deal with the possibility that multiple instances like this could become hugely detrimental to your company.
  2. Lateness – Employees are contracted to set hours, so turning up 30 minutes every day can cause unrest. Not only does it mean they have less time to complete their work, but other employees may also feel annoyed at the fact they are constantly turning up late.


Each form of absence comes with its own set of challenges, and should be managed appropriately. If you don’t have an adequate system of record for tracking absences, or don’t log reasons for absence, your organisation may lack the crucial visibility you need to be able to support your people and the business in the best way possible.

See how edays can help your organisation efficiently manage all types of absence.

Click here to book a personalised demo

Katrina Bennett People Director at edays
September 14, 2023

Katrina is edays' own People Director with significant UK and international experience in delivering people strategy and value-adding HR solutions across a range of organisations and sectors (including Arriva, Boots, Rolls Royce, the utility and charity sectors). Katrina has over 20 years of experience in Human Resources and is CIPD qualified.