Sickness absence in the UK is changing… are you prepared?

£29 billion is the annual cost of sickness absence to UK businesses according to a recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers. At a time when organisations are under more pressure than ever to control costs, it is vital they find the right solution for minimising employee absence.  Many forward thinking companies are looking at ways to improve employees’ health, morale and motivation, whilst also tackling the issues of sickness absence and unauthorised leave. For SMEs and start-ups the cost of absence can be crippling, therefore it is essential that strategies and policies are developed to aid employee health and well-being and in turn reduce overall absence.

Key Findings

The CIPD’s thirteenth national survey of absence management trends, policy and practice, revealed changes to the types of sickness absence in the UK. Along with healthcare provider Simply Health, they have surveyed 667 organisations across the UK, employing a total of 1.7 million employees. Overall, from 2011-2012 the level of employee absence has fallen from 7.7 days to 6.8 per employee per year. Both the private and public sectors have reported the largest fall. However, there are huge variations across organisations, with extremely high levels of absence in a number of sectors. Short term sickness is going down. Minor illnesses such as colds, flu, stomach upsets, headaches and migraines are the most common causes. Long term illness is on the up. The most common causes are stress, acute medical conditions (including stroke, heart attacks and cancer), mental ill health, musculoskeletal injuries and back pain. Musculoskeletal injuries and back pain are more frequent for manual workers, whilst stress is more common for non-manual workers. So what can you do? There are steps that you and your business can take to ensure increased focus on employee well-being.

Sickness Absence

1. Train your managers When long term illness is the reason for a team member’s prolonged absence, make sure on their return to work that an informal interview takes place. This will help both the employee and manager talk openly about any issues they may have and ease them back into the swing of things.

2. Equip managers with knowledge Giving your managers access to the information they need will enable them to better understand the problem. Presenting absence information in a graphical format can be really helpful; both on an individual and team basis. HR Software systems such as Cezanne OnDemand provide advanced absence management dashboards to view these key analytics. Trigger mechanisms, such as the Bradford Factor, are a useful means of measuring worker absenteeism. Equipping your managers with the technology to alert them when trigger points are reached, and scheduling regular meetings with employees to discuss the issue, can help provide the insight needed to tackle the underlying problems.

3. Introduce clear policies Introducing clear policies help managers operate in a consistent way and keep employees informed. Think about introducing flexible working. This can be a cost effective way to combat absence and reduce workplace stress. As well as flexible working, it may be beneficial to introduce an employee assistance programme; providing help to those suffering with emotional, physical and personal issues can reduce long term absence. Engaging employees in this type of programme can also have other positive results, such as increased levels of overall employee well-being, productivity and job satisfaction. What types of absenteeism are common to your workplace and how do you tackle it…let us know?

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