What’s causing absence in the workplace


Employers have this week confirmed that the number of days taken as sick leave fell from an average of 7.6 days to 6.6 days this year, according the research published by the CIPD, who have subsequently suggested that the fall in sick days did not signal that workers were now fitter and healthier. Rather, there is strong evidence that people are attending work while sick and struggling to overcome an illness.

The reason for this rise in presenteeism can be attributed to an increase in excessive workloads, with 29% of employers reporting that their workload was too great to allow time off, even when unwell. At the heart of this presenteeism is a fear of appearing dispensable and letting people down, which could result in either the sack or redundancy. This is highlighted by the 24% of the workforce who admit taking time off as official holiday when ill.

In addition to, and often to the exclusion of, illness, more of the 6.6 days were being used to care for other people, such as elderly relatives. Mover 30% of employers report that absence levels are creeping up to help the workforce cope with caring responsibilities outside of work – a trend that is expected to increase in the coming years. And yet, worryingly, just one in six organisations have policies in place to help staff achieve a better balance between their home and working lives.

Helping employees manage responsibilities across the generations is becoming increasingly important. Recent UKCES research has predicted that there will be four generations working side-by-side by 2030, which will put quite a strain on the workforce and employers who will have to manage an diverse range of employee needs, including caring responsibilities.

Smart employers are establishing policies to support staff manage life outside of work, while continuing to deliver excellence in the workplace. Options include:

  • Flexible working
  • Compassionate leave entitlement
  • Carers’ leave
  • Counselling services
  • Career sabbaticals
  • Financial advice
  • Additional holiday purchasing schemes

70% of businesses recognise their responsibility in encouraging employees to be both physically and mentally healthy, with the majority understanding the important correlation between health and productivity. 21% of businesses are currently developing a strategy for employee wellbeing, yet rather than preventative, 29% admit to relaying on reactive measures when a situation arises. Those businesses whom are establishing wellbeing policies are also providing line managers with adequate training on how to hold constructive discussions with their staff about their absence options and the package of benefits available.

Despite all this, 51% of employees have claimed that they don’t want their employers interfering in their life outside of work, proving that the issue of absence is a sensitive one that needs careful management.

If any of the issues raised in this article affect your business, please give us a call to discuss your options. We are happy to advise and find a solution that works for you and your business: 0800 912 7152