How businesses can address rising absenteeism

New research from the British Chamber of Commerce and Unum[i] has revealed that two-fifths (43%) of businesses have had employees absent from work for more than four weeks due to ill health, in the last two years.

Over 1,000 businesses of all sizes and sectors were surveyed and it was found the overriding impacts of staff absences are operational (88%), they affect staff morale (76%), with some companies have also highlighted financial (44%) and reputational (36%) impacts from staff absence.

The research also found that most businesses understand the importance of supporting employee health and wellbeing, with 62% offering benefits that look after health such as access to wellbeing support, private medical insurance and healthy lifestyle benefits.

Adrian Lewis, Director at Activ Absence says, “Having staff off sick has a huge impact on business, especially in smaller firms who don’t tend to have resources to cover people’s workloads. It is reassuring however that many businesses are taking measures to proactively look after the health and wellbeing of their workforce as this is paramount in preventing people going off sick.

“Another solution for addressing absenteeism is using technology to track and record sick all leave and make it transparent and open for everyone, which can deter people calling in sick if they are not genuinely ill. Investing in absence management software can also help companies track absence patterns and spot trends. For instance, if someone is consistently off on a Monday or a Friday it may indicate an issue such as depression or stress. The system prompts managers to always do return to work interviews, which enables them to sit down and discuss any issues.

“This can be an opportunity to uncover if something more is going on and offer support if needed. Without the ability to keep track of absence businesses can often be in the dark about what is going on with their staff.”

One company that has been using absence management software since 2017 is JEHU Group, a construction company that operates across South Wales and South West England.

The company was originally started in the 1930s and has 170 employees. Activ Absence’s software was put in place when the company had around 60 employees and the previous manual system had become too difficult to manage for the HR team as it required a great deal of administration.

Gwilym Hughes, HR Strategic Business Manager, JEHU Group explains, “Being able to monitor and track patterns in sickness absence has enabled us to see what issues are affecting our staff and tailor our employee benefit offerings accordingly. We find the sickness absence reporting really useful and use them in monthly senior management team meetings.

“For example, the system reports have highlighted that one common reason for sickness absence amongst our employees is musculoskeletal issues, so we implemented a health benefit for all employees that gives them access to consultations and physiotherapy.”

Adrian Lewis, Director at Activ Absence adds, “Using an absence management system, companies can better manage sickness absence, reduce their sick leave bill and gather important employee data that can inform wellbeing strategies in the future.”

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