Does employee absence have a huge impact on your organisation?

Peninsula Team

February 11 2011

I suspect the answer to this question is most definitely, yes. Employee absence affects your business in various ways, be it long term or short term. It affects staff morale, disrupts the work that others undertake, and reduces the quality of work output. Whether the absence is planned, incidental, or extended, it carries costs and risks that impact productivity.

A recent report covering more than 1.5 million employees highlights sickness absence for last year averaging at 7.7 days per employee. Minor illnesses, such as cold, flu, stomach upsets, headaches and migraines are by far the most common causes of short term absence, followed closely by musculoskeletal injuries and stress.

The average cost of employee absence per employee in the private sector is £600 per year, significantly rising to £889 per year in the public sector and what makes this situation worse is that less than 50% of employers monitor the cost of this problem on their business. In addition to the cost to the business for the absence itself, a consideration must also be given to the cost of annual leave for employees that are long term sick. Recent case law states that employees continue to accrue holiday entitlement for the duration of their period of sickness. The cost implication therefore can be quite significant.

Employee absence will have certainly been affected by the recession: 38% employers noted an increase in mental health problems such as anxiety and depression amongst employees in the last 12 months and stress related absence also continues to increase. Organisations that had made, or were planning to make redundancies were more likely to report an increase in mental health problems.

With this in mind awareness of potential disability discrimination claims is also crucial. The management of employees who become disabled as a result of stress, depression or any other long terms illness may mean employers have to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ as dictated by the Equality Act 2010 before they can return to their job.

So how can you manage this effectively in your business? The role of the line manager is vital in managing long-term absence but other interventions are also important. A key element of absence management involves accurate measuring and monitoring. This indentifies trends and can be used as trigger points to indicate where further investigation may be necessary.

Effective absence management involves finding a balance between providing support to help employees with health problems and taking consistent, firm action against employees who try to take advantage of their employer. Early intervention is key and holding return to work interviews are proven to be instrumental in reducing absence, however it is similarly important to have a clear absence policy in place that has been communicated to your workforce.

Our online service BusinessWise can help to reduce workplace absence by generating a series of Absence Reports helping to identify trends within your business. Whether you need to calculate working days lost through absence or address an individual’s sickness record, you can use the Reports section within EmployWise to supply you with the statistics you require. These comprehensive reports, along with the online ‘Bradford Factor’ calculator can be accessed by Managers to pinpoint any trends and address any absence related issues before they become serious problems. 

To find out more, contact the BusinessWise Helpdesk on 0844 892 2780 Monday – Friday 9am-5.30pm, where a member of the team will on hand to assist.

For more information on the issues raised in this article contact the 24 hour Advice Service on
0844 892 2772.

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