Study: Work absences in 2010

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In an average week in 2010, 8.0% of full-time employees in Canada missed some work for personal reasons. This proportion was unchanged from 2009, but up from 6.3% in 2000.

Among full-time employees, 5.7% missed work because of their own illness or disability, while 2.3% missed work for personal or family responsibilities. Women on maternity leave and men on parental leave are not included in these figures.

On average, the number of days lost by full-time employees in 2010 was down slightly from 2009. However, averages were above levels a decade earlier.

For example, full-time employees lost an average of 9.1 days in 2010 for personal reasons, compared with 9.5 days in 2009 and 8.0 days in 2000.

Full-time employees were absent 7.4 days because of their own illness or disability, down from 7.8 days in 2009, while 1.7 days were lost for personal or family demands in 2010, unchanged from 2009.

In total, full-time employees lost an estimated 100 million work days in 2010 for these reasons.

Women lost 11.0 days compared with 7.6 days for their male counterparts. Full-time workers with preschool-age children lost 3.1 days for personal or family responsibilities compared with 1.4 days for those in families without children.

Full-time employees in the public sector, who are more likely unionized or female, lost 11.8 days of work time in 2010 for personal reasons, compared with 8.2 days for their private-sector counterparts.

Contributing factors to work absence rates include the nature and demands of the job, the male-female composition of the workforce, and union representation.

Unionism is a strong determinant of the presence of paid sick or family leave. Full-time workers who belonged to unions, or who were covered by collective agreements, missed an average of 12.9 work days for personal reasons in 2010, compared with 7.3 days for their non-unionized counterparts.

At the industry level, full-time employees who missed the most work days on average were those in health care and social assistance (13.4 days) and public administration (11.8 days). The lowest averages were recorded by those in professional, scientific and technical services (5.4 days) and primary industries (7.0 days).

Note: The article "Work absences in 2010" is based on data from the Labour Force Survey for full-time employees holding only one job. Part-time, self-employed and unpaid family workers were excluded. Absences for vacations and statutory holidays are not included in this report.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3701.

The article "Work absences in 2010" is now available in the May 2011 online edition of Perspectives on Labour and Income, Vol. 23, no. 2 (75-001-X, free), from the Key resource module of our website under Publications.

The publication Work Absence Rates, 2010 (71-211-X, free), is also now available from the Key resource module of our website under Publications.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this article, contact Sharanjit Uppal (613-951-3887;, Labour Statistics Division.