The report considers key workplace absence issues and is based on survey replies from 518 organisations from a range of sectors throughout the UK employing a total of 1.4 million employees. The survey reveals some interesting information that can assist employers with improving their absence management procedures. It also provides useful benchmarking data.
The survey reports that overall absence levels have fallen from an average of 7.6 days absence per employee in 2013 to 6.6 days this year. In fact the statistics from the last five years show a fluctuating downward trend in all business areas, apart from manufacturing and production which have stayed largely the same. However, the level of absences, as you would expect, vary between organisations with public sector organisations having the highest average absence rates.
Public sector sick days have fallen to an average of 7.9 days per employee per year from last year's figure of 8.7 days. As with last year, this is higher than the private sector figure of an average of 5.5 days absence per employee per year.
One point worth highlighting from the report is the increased impact of absence related to stress which is ranked as a common cause of both short term (four weeks or less) and long term absences. However, minor illnesses, such as colds or migraines, are the most common cause of short term absences, with stress being a more common cause of long term absences.
Two fifths of employers participating in the survey have reported that stress absence has increased in the last year once again, with public sector and larger 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 of up to seven days accounts for two-thirds of workplace absences. Of the organisations surveyed, 96% 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 are seen as one of the top five causes of absence by a significant number of employers (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 £609 per employee per year. 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 trigger points so that matters are escalated after a certain number of absences
- Use of occupational health advice where appropriate.
- Formal procedure and formal warnings where appropriate
- Being aware of any underlying disability issues
For more information or if you would like to discuss a particular situation please contact me on the details below.