menu icon menu icon

Non-work-related absence

Written by: Fit for Work team | Posted in: Blog

Although health problems are a major cause of workplace absence, other non-work related (social) factors can cause you to be off work or prevent you returning. Being open and honest with your employer about problems in your personal life is just as important as talking about your health. Only by understanding the full picture will they know how best to support you.

Causes of non-work related absence

Problems outside work can have a significant effect on your health and impact on your ability to work. They cause additional stress and worry, which together with the demands and responsibilities of work, can become overwhelming and leave you unable to cope.

Causes of non-work related absence include:

  • debt and money worries;
  • coping with a bereavement;
  • housing and the threat of homelessness;
  • caring responsibilities;
  • parenting and childcare;
  • relationships and family problems.

There’s a lot you can do to stop these becoming problematic and knowing where to turn for advice and support can help you cope.

Money worries and debt

Feeling anxious and low is a natural response to worries over your finances and debt. Fear of losing your job, and income, can affect your self-esteem. This can cause emotional distress leading to periods of absence.

The Citizens Advice Bureau has information to help you with debt and money worries.

If you prefer to speak to someone, you can call the Money Advice Service or National Debtline for help.


Coping with bereavement can affect almost every aspect of your life, including work. There is no ‘normal’ way to grieve, and people express grief in many different ways. You may feel you’re coping well and feeling strong or that you are struggling to come to terms with what has happened.

Cruse Bereavement Care is a charity offering bereavement support to people in England (people in Wales can get support from Cruse Bereavement Care Wales).

Housing problems

Safe and affordable housing is a basic need that helps you to maintain your health and wellbeing. Worries over poor housing or homelessness can contribute to the development of mental health problems or make existing mental health problems worse, affecting your ability to maintain a healthy working life.

If you have housing worries, Shelter provides information and advice on a range of housing topics. Visit Shelter (England) or Shelter (Cymru) for advice and support.

The Citizens Advice Bureau in England and Wales can also help you to deal with housing problems.


Caring can be unpredictable, and it can be challenging trying to combine work and care. You may need to work around your caring responsibilities, which, if not properly managed and planned for, could mean taking unauthorised and regular leave from work.

As a carer, you have employment rights that can make this easier. You can request changes to your working hours or work arrangements to help you manage combining caring and paid work.

NHS Choices has a lot of good information if you’re a working carer, including what support is available for carers at work and the benefits you could be entitled to as a carer.

Parenting and childcare

Balancing the demands of work and parenting takes a lot of effort. Working around childcare arrangements, holidays and schooling can put a strain on your ability to deliver at work and keep regular hours. You may have to take leave because your child is unwell or there has been an emergency, bringing further disruption to your work life.

However, many parents manage this balance well and find a way to juggle their work and family responsibilities. Flexible working, and being open and honest with your employer about the reasons you need time off, can help you meet the needs of your family and career.

The National Childbirth Trust has lots of good information for parents around work and childcare, including how to request flexible working and what childcare options are available.

You can find out about your parental rights at work through the Citizens Advice Bureau (England) and Wales.

Relationships and family problems

Coping with a relationship breakdown, divorce or a close friend or relative’s deteriorating health can be exhausting and traumatic.

Taking a period of leave to attend to these might seem like your only choice. However, your employer will usually be sympathetic to your situation, allowing you to take time off or work flexible hours when you need to. This is why it’s important to talk to your employer as soon as possible in the event of a family or relationship crisis.

Citizens Advice provides information to help you through relationship problems through its sites for people in England and Wales.

Leave a Reply