Despite almost universal agreement that employee absenteeism leads to decreased production efficiency, there is little documentation of a relationship between these variables. Several authors have even suggested that absenteeism might have some beneficial effects. The present study finds that absenteeism and department efficiency are negatively associated only (1) when production processes are not highly automated, and (2) when the absences cannot be anticipated in advance. Despite these limitations, however, the costs attributable to the impact of absenteeism on department efficiency are substantial. Programmes designed to decrease unanticipated absenteeism, therefore, can result in considerable savings by increasing operating efficiency where employees are directly involved in the production process.