According to the Office for National Statistics, 131 million days were lost due to sickness absences in the UK in 2013. This figure is down from 178 million days in 1993, but still represents a significant problem to UK employers.While minor illnesses were the most common reason given for sickness absence, back, neck and muscle pain accounted for more lost days than any other cause.
How absenteeism is affecting your organisation
- Increased costs due to administration, wages paid to absent employees and high costs of paying overtime or hiring temporary staff.
- Possible safety issues caused by temporary and less experienced staff coming in at short notice and having to work quickly to catch up.
- Reduced quality / productivity due to provisional staffing measures i.e. less experienced temporary staff or overworked regular staff.
- Managers diverted from their regular duties to attend to staffing problems.
- Low morale where other employees are called upon to pick up the slack.
Sickness absence is just one reason for absenteeism
There are other reasons your employees may be unexpectedly absent from work.
Some examples include employees who:
- take holidays without booking the time off first
- are being bullied or harassed at work
- are experiencing work-related stress
- have to take care of sick children or relatives
- have low motivation and take "sickies"
- call in sick to attend job interviews
How do you manage your employee sick days?
Tackling absenteeism can be a challenge and the ways of managing sick days can also be problematic.
Some employers offer paid sick leave, but this system is open to abuse. Without a doctor's note it can be difficult to determine if an employee is genuinely ill.
Some employers offer a set number of paid sick days to be used as needed throughout the year. However, under this system, employees may see their sick days as days owed and take them whether or not they genuinely need to.
Some employers take a harder line and offer Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) only. The problem with this system is that employees who are genuinely ill are put in a position where they are likely to lose money and may feel pressure to work through their illness or return to work sooner than they really should.
In the case of employees with contagious conditions, such as flu or gastro viruses, this risks spreading germs to colleagues. It is also particularly hazardous in food manufacturing or catering environments where germs can be transferred to food and potentially infect a larger number of people.
Getting to the root of the problem
Another way of tackling the problem is to look at the root causes, as described above.
This approach might involve:
- regularly reminding employees to book time off for their holidays
- tackling issues like bullying and harassment by encouraging open communications, offering support to victims and reiterating to perpetrators that this behaviour will not be tolerated and could have serious consequences
- offering advice on managing heavy workloads, time pressures and stress; and encouraging employees to speak out if they are struggling
- looking at ways to improve employee motivation by encouraging a strong teamwork ethic and making your employees feel their contributions are valued
- trying to retain valued staff by offering more training and/or opportunities
- reminding employees that their company and colleagues rely on them
Kodiak's poster subscription service regularly addresses all of these issues