£29 billion – Why every employer should measure sickness absence

Jul 15, 2013 | Time Off Work

Recent research from accountancy firm PwC indicates that sickness absence costs UK employers £29 billion each year. That’s a staggering amount and yet many small employers don’t know their own figure, and I know many don’t even monitor sickness absence at all.

CIPD’s most recent absence management report from October 2012 indicated that only 32% of organisations with 1 – 49 employees measure the cost of absence, and in fact that figure is almost identical for 50 – 249 employees and for 250 – 999 employees, only increasing once organisations get to over 1000 employees. So if you run a small business and don’t know how much absence costs you, you’re certainly not alone.

But before you put monitoring sickness absence off as being annoying administration and paperwork, have a think about these reasons why it might be a good idea to start…

It’s more than you think

If you’re not happy about the amount of time someone’s taking off, but are not monitoring exactly how much it is, it’s probably more than you think. And when you calculate how much that is actually costing your business that will probably be more than you think as well. I talk to small business owners who feel someone is taking lots of time off and are finding it a problem, but are not able to clarify exactly how many days we are talking about.

According to the CIPD’s October 2012 report, smaller organisations are more likely to attribute a higher proportion of their absence to short-term leave compared with larger organisations. Short term absence is easier to address than long term absence, which means if your business reflects that trend, improving your absence rates should be relatively easy, but knowing how many days are being taken is crucial in that.

Don’t think you have a problem at all?

Because managers tend to underestimate sickness absence, starting to monitor it may well indicate a problem where you hadn’t appreciated there was one.

Identifying it early is beneficial for the business but also for the employee. If they’ve started to have too much time off, or regular patterns of absence, there might be a reason for that which you can help with. And identifying minor problems early is always better as it means they are far less likely to develop into serious problems, which is a no brainer really.

Information makes action easier

There are several methods you can use to address problem sickness absence, but as with anything, it’s much easier to do once you’ve got a handle on exactly how much of a problem it is, and exactly how much impact it’s having.

If you need to address a problem with someone, details of the patterns and amount of their absence may make a real difference to what approach would be best, and selecting the best approach is obviously likely to be more successful in dealing with the problem.

Nothing like cold hard cash loss to motivate you

If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like dealing with things like this and would rather hope things improve on their own (and you wouldn’t be unusual at all!), then getting your figures straight may just give you the impetus you need. Once the impact of an absence problem goes from being an irritation to solid details of money coming off your bottom line, your motivation to take action will sky rocket…

If you need help monitoring or managing sickness absence in your organisation, please contact us at [email protected].