The Top Reasons for Missing Work According to the Government


Employees give many reasons for missing work: some legitimate, some less so. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, records and tabulates the causes of missed work days across the country. Excuses include, among other things, medical problems, jury duty and tardiness.

Contact with Objects

  • "Contact with objects" was the foremost reason for missing work, according to the BLS. This refers to incidents in which employees accidentally come into contact with harmful objects or devices in the workplace, causing injury. This could mean, for example, a cook who seriously burned his hand on the stove or a landscaper injured by a piece of equipment. This reason accounted for missed workdays among 28 percent of the private and public workforce across the country.


  • Overexertion counted for a full quarter of missed workdays across a range of fields. Retail trade workers, health care industry employees, leisure and hospitality employees, and mining workers all fell victim to overexertion, which cause between eight and 21 missed work days annually, depending on the industry.

Sprains, Strains and Tears

  • Many workers injure themselves in a way that causes sprains, strains and tears, resulting in missed work. According to the BLS, "bending, reaching, twisting or slipping" contributed to a significant portion of these injuries. Of this class, shoulder injuries result in the greatest number of missed workdays (22 on average). Carpal tunnel syndrome is another significant factor.


  • Workers who simply show up late without cause are, in the aggregate, a major reason for workplace absence. Although tardiness might not make one miss a whole day of work, it does account for a significant percentage of missed work hours. Unjustified tardiness affects all industries in both the public and private sectors.

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