There are five main reasons why staff are absent from work on a short-term basis and the problem costs employers approximately £107.851 each day, and, overall, about £29bn2 annually. The impact on productivity can be enormous, yet on the bright side, proactively supporting staff helps the business recruit and retain their teams – employees like working for companies that value their wellbeing.
The five top causes of employee absenteeism are minor illnesses, stress and poor mental health, musculoskeletal issues, non-work related injuries and accidents as well as home and family responsibilities.
e-days advises employers to take control of the issues, rather than issues take complete control of them:
- Minor illnesses: Colds and flus can make the rounds at any point in the year, although our data shows that most sick days are taken in November, not January or February as often presumed. Headaches and stomach bugs can strike at any point. They’re inevitable in working life and common so they’ll likely prove costly for all businesses.
Action: Make it clear to staff that they shouldn’t show up for work if they’re feeling unwell and send home any that come to work. Although this can be a tough call for managers, it is better for one person to be away rather than a whole team. Clear absence management and reporting will help show patterns, while Bradford Factor scoring could flag any repeat instances and return to work interviews can help identify issues and how to make improvements.
- Stress and poor mental health: According to the CIPD, stress and poor mental health are major causes of employee absence3 and 55% of their survey participants say that reported common mental health conditions have increased. The issue equates to 91 million lost days each year, costing UK business £15bn in productivity.
Action: Understand and address common causes of stress in your workplace, promote a good work/life balance, encourage exercise and healthy eating, develop a better understanding of your employees. Develop company thinking that prevention is better than cure.
- Musculoskeletal issues: Back pain and other conditions are the most common causes of short and long-term absences, often more common in certain sectors.
Action: Provide adequate training for anyone involved in any form of impacted work, from manual labour, to lifting boxes. Something as simple as showing the correct way to do something can prevent potential injuries. Making sure everyone has the right equipment is also essential, from ladders to forklifts, foot rests to chairs with lumbar support for good posture. Getting people to stand for a few minutes for every hour they are sitting is also helpful.
- Non-work-related injuries and accidents: Even with the best employee wellbeing programme, accidents can happen anywhere.
Action: A flexible working environment can help. If someone isn’t able to work, then that’s unavoidable, but they may wish to work. Providing an option to work remotely can make all the difference to both.
- Home and family responsibilities: Now amongst the top 10 causes of long-term absences and top 5 of short term absences4, home responsibilities can weigh heavy on employees’ minds and can impact their work. It’s not just parents who may have to deal with an issue. Many people, the sandwich generation, have to take care of elderly parents and other relatives, creating many pressures.
Action: Flexible working can make all the difference, especially when employees are motivated to help their employer and their customers. Leaving earlier to make a doctor appointment or working from home while supporting an elderly relative can make all the difference. A danger with flexible working for some staff, however, means it can lead to a culture of over-working and stress, if employees can’t switch off.
Clare Avery, HR Manager of e-days, said: “Employee absence is always a problem, but it does tend to spike at certain times of the year. This could be due to adverse weather, seasonal stresses, or mounting financial pressures. In any case, it’s important to take steps to understand the underlying causes of absence and take proactive steps”.