The objective of this research study was to investigate teachers’ understanding and perceptions of teacher absenteeism. A sample of principals, deputy principals, HODs, teachers, support staff and union members from seven different schools in Middelburg in the Nkangala District of the Mpumalanga Department of Basic Education participated in the investigation. The study was motivated by the escalating teacher absenteeism being experienced within the Mpumalanga Department of Basic Education. The abuse of teacher leave, which takes the form of various leave privileges, is being accelerated primarily by the unacceptably high occurrence of unauthorised absence on the part of teachers at schools. These unauthorised absences includes arriving in class late and leaving class before time, late arrival and early departure from school, poor time management and poor monitoring of absenteeism by the SMTs at schools. The study adopted a qualitative research approach in the collection and analysis of the data with interviews and document analysis being used in order to collect the required data. The study utilises the conceptual lens of transactional stress model and occupational stress model in order to analyse the findings and identify the various stress factors that impact on teacher absenteeism in South Africa. It concludes that the causes of teacher absenteeism are being ascribed to the following: teachers are highly stressed by their own personal lack of financial management, family problems and their ever-increasing responsibilities and the curriculum changes being imposed on them. The primary value of this research investigation, therefore, lies in the belief that the study findings may help to shape the policies that direct the management of leave of absence in the department of education while simultaneously trying to uproot the perceptual misunderstandings about teacher absenteeism. It is essential that suitable policies be formulated to obviate the underlying causes of teacher absenteeism while identifying the stressors that promote teacher absenteeism and trying to provide solutions that will reduce the escalating absence of teachers at school.