Yet the latest Office of National Statistics figures tells us that on average in 2016 there were just 4.3 days lost per worker due to sickness or injury in the UK.
It goes on to point out that this is the lowest recorded figure since its records began in 1993 when it was at 7.2 days.
But when you scale this four days a year up across the country, it means a staggering 137.3 million working days were lost. And certain organisations and demographics are responsible for significantly higher levels. These include:
- Older workers
- Those with long-term health conditions and smokers
- Workers in Wales and Scotland
- Public-sector workers and those working in the largest organisations (those with 500 or more employees)
If you translate this into the cost to UK business, the results are alarming. Personnel Today reports that one of the largest recent surveys extrapolated that the cost to employers is an average of £16 billion each year. While the latest figures may be slightly lower than this, the cost is still high enough to make us all pause for thought.
So what can you do about it? Gemma Harding, Head of Corporates Services at CALLCARE collected her top tips to what managers can do to effectively address employee absences:
- Gather hard data
Absenteeism is not just about individuals: it’s about how unplanned leave affects your organisation as a whole. You need to know the scale of the problem and be able to identify if there are organisational issues that affect it.
- Look for patterns in terms of timings or groupings of absence
- Identify when increases occurred and review other organisational changes at the time
- Are there types of workers particularly prone to absence or departments particularly affected?
- Start reviewing cultures rather than people
Wilmar Scaufeli pinpoints in the Journal of Organisational Behaviour that increases in job demands directly influence absenteeism. He also notes that decreases in job resources, such as feedback and learning opportunities, are causally related.
Particularly where stress at work, or at home, has led to absences, implementing flexible working (such as unpaid leave, different hours and days working from home) can help.
- Encourage your management team to review working practices and introduce training and support where required
- Consider a more flexible approach to working patterns
- Develop a clear absenteeism policy
It’s important to be clear about exactly what is acceptable and what support is on offer.
- Detail how many absences are acceptable in a given period of time
- Document acceptable reasons for absence
- Describe the support offered to help address increases in absences
- Delineate consequences for violating the policy
- Address issues at an individual level
While absenteeism is not all about the individual, it must also be addressed at this level.
- Meet with the employee and discuss possible solutions
- Offer support, training and flexibility if required
- Document every meeting in writing
- If things still do not improve, issue a verbal warning and ensure this is also documented
- Any written warning issued should be signed by the employee and placed in their personnel file
- Start thinking creatively
Thinking outside the box opens up a whole new world of potential solutions.
Outsourcing can often relieve the strain on your staff. Offering intelligent outsourcing can help businesses maintain productivity without stress.
Taking in all the above advice can ensure a healthy relationship between managers and employees in communicating and dealing with absence issues.
About the Author
As Head of Corporate Services Gemma is an expert in the call handling process and guiding organisations to an improved customer service strategy.