The report considers key workplace absence issues and is based on survey replies from over 600 organisations from a range of sectors throughout the UK employing a total of 2.3 million employees. The survey reveals some interesting trends and points that can illustrate ways to improve absence management procedure. It also provides some useful benchmarking data for HR staff.
The survey reports that overall absence has risen from 6.8 days per employee last year to 7.6 days this year, returning to levels observed in 2010 and 2011. However, it is noted that the level of absences vary hugely between organisations, with some extremely high levels of absence being reported by some public sector organisations.
Public sector sick days have risen to 8.7 days per employee per year from last year's figure of 7.9 days (the lowest level since the survey began). As with last year, this is higher than the private sector figure of 7.2 days per year, although the gap is not as wide as in recent years.
One point worth highlighting from the report is the increased impact of absence related to stress.
Two fifths of employers participating in the survey have reported that stress absence has increased in the last year once again, with public sector organisations being more likely to report an increase in stress related absences.
As with last year, the most common cause of stress identified by the survey is workload, suggesting employees are taking on greater amounts of work due to a more streamlined workforce. It is therefore important that employers have in place effective procedures to deal with workplace stress including monitoring workload levels. Despite many organisations surveyed taking steps to tackle stress related absences, one third of employers who included stress in their top five reasons for absence are not currently taking any action to address this issue.
Short-term absence (those less than seven days) accounts for the majority (two-thirds) of workplace absence. Of the organisations surveyed, 95% of these reported that minor illnesses such as colds, flu and stomach upsets were in the top five causes for short-term absences. Unfortunately for employers, there may be little that can be done to prevent this type of absence. The survey does though show that family and home responsibilities can account for a significant amount of short-term absence (the survey reveals this to be a bigger issue among private sector employers) and it may be beneficial for employers to consider whether additional flexible working availability may help reduce short-term absence if this is a problem.
While costs are hard to estimate and can depend on the size of the employer, the median cost of workplace absence of those surveyed who had financial records was £595 per employee per year, much the same as last year's median of £600. In a large organisation this can clearly amount to a significant outlay. So if nothing else having good absence procedures in place can be a boost to the bottom line.
The report as a whole contains some very useful benchmarking information for employers looking to improve their absence management procedures.
For further details see here.
If absenteeism is a problem for your organisation then it is important to consider issues such as:
- Management Reporting – e.g. cost of absence, lost time rate, Bradford factor
- Ensuring that absence figures are circulated to the relevant people within the organisation
- Being clear who is responsible for absence management – HR or Employee’s manager or someone else?
- Being proactive in dealing with any issues without delay
- Return to work interviews
- Use of triggers
- Use of occupational health advice where appropriate
- Formal procedure and formal warnings where appropriate
- Being aware of any underlying disability issues