The ability to deliver primary care in Nigeria is undermined by chronic absenteeism but an understanding of its drivers is needed if effective responses are to be developed. While there is a small but growing body of relevant research, the gendered dynamics of absenteeism remain largely unexplored. We apply a gendered perspective to understanding absenteeism and propose targeted strategies that appear likely to reduce it. We did so by means of a qualitative study that was part of a larger project examining corruption within the health system in six primary healthcare facilities across rural and urban regions in Enugu State, south-east Nigeria. We conducted thirty in-depth interviews with frontline health workers, healthcare managers, and community members of the health facility committee. Six Focus Group Discussions were held with male and female service users. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Participants described markedly gendered differences in the factors contributing to health worker absenteeism that were related to gender norms. Absence by female health workers was attributed to domestic and caregiving responsibilities, including housekeeping, childcare, cooking, washing, and non-commercial farming used to support their families. Male health workers were most often absent to fulfil expectations related to their role as breadwinners, with dual practice and work in other sectors to generate additional income generation as their formal salaries were considered irregular and poor. Demands arising from sociocultural and religious events affected the attendance of both male and female health workers. Both men and women were subject to sanctions, but managers and facility chairs were more lenient with women when absence was due to caregiving and other domestic responsibilities. In summary, gender roles influence absenteeism amongst primary healthcare workers in Nigeria and thus should be taken into account in developing nuanced responses that take account of the social, economic, and cultural factors that underpin these roles.