What are the Costs of Employee Absence in the Workplace?

Absence in the workplace through sickness has a huge impact on a business. Recent research conducted by Viking Office Supplies, 56% of workers have taken a day off sick in the past year. This has costed UK businesses £5.6billion, despite the Office of National Statistics reporting a decline in office sick days in the past few years. According to property agent Savoy Stewart, the top sectors in which employees are most likely to call in sick are retail, leisure, sports and tourism, recruitment and HR, marketing, advertising and PR, and sales. The top reasons for employees calling in sick are that they are having a poor mental health day, being hungover, and not having the motivation to go to work. Despite this, the main reasons given to employers when employees call in are food poisoning, vomiting and the flu.

Healthcare appointments are also costing businesses money, with new research by Unum estimating that UK businesses lost 201 million hours – the equivalent of £900million in paid sick leave – to employees taking time off for health appointments in the last year alone. The survey of over 2000 UK workers found that the average full-time worker spends 8.3 hours attending appointments each year, with this including 3.1 visits to the GP and 1.7 visits to specialists.

60% of surveyed workers said that they found taking time off for these appointments stressful, with 25% admitting to cancelling an appointment due to personal issues or their workload being too high. 62% of the workers who cancelled their appointment stated that their health deteriorated as a result. The study also found that 77% of workers find that their productivity at work is impacted whilst waiting for appointments.

Unum have suggested that offering employees healthcare apps can help to reduce absenteeism and presenteeism by providing easy access to virtual GPs, second opinions, mental health support and virtual physiotherapy advice.

Adrian Lewis from Activ Absence has stated that “Our advice on National Sickie Day is for employers to make use of technology to track and monitor absence. Investing in absence management software can help companies monitor trends and keep on top of absence rates. It gives employers a complete overview of what is going on in their organisation in terms of when people are off, how often and why. It also prompts return to work interviews. This can flag up ongoing health issues such as stress or anxiety, which the company could then offer support for, as well as acting as a deterrent to pulling a fake sickie as people know that it will recorded and followed up with a back to work interview”.