Absence management systems gone AWOL from UK’s SMEs, reports Jelf

A quarter (23 per cent)* of the UK’s small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) do not have an absence management system in place, according to new research from Jelf Employee Benefits. Despite 69 per cent* of organisations having a system in place, three-quarters (75 per cent) report that it is not providing them with sufficiently empowering absence or health data to inform an effective wellbeing programme.

Iain Laws, managing director, UK healthcare, said: ‘This is a missed opportunity as many of the 69 per cent above may have an absence management platform in place but no process for taking advantage of the outputs. If the data is not understood or applied to help manage employee health risks that affect the business itself, then one of the main purposes of their absence management system is being missed and the value is lying fallow.’

Encouragingly, employers do seem to be aware of their shortfallings in terms of healthcare provision, with more than half (54 per cent) saying that this area of employee benefits is going to be a priority objective over the next 12–24 months. The reason for their concern is a belief (76 per cent) that employee absence is going to be an increasing problem over the medium term due to physical and emotional wellbeing issues. In spite of this realistic assessment, less than half (43 per cent) are unaware of the additional health and wellbeing features included within their existing health-related employee benefits schemes that could be utilised to help reduce the levels of absence.

Laws said: ‘In many organisations, healthcare has had to play second fiddle to pensions within the benefits strategy, but there is now a school of thought that absence could become more endemic if it is not properly addressed through effective employee health management and benefits programmes.

‘It’s interesting that only three per cent of respondents thought that Fit Notes have made a difference to return-to-work rates and this is probably a symptom of not having a robust absence management system in the first place.

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‘Health and wellbeing is both a preventative and rehabilitation strategy but to be successful it has to be informed by reliable absence or health data. Without that crucial link, any investment could be badly targeted and budget wasted.’

*Please contact us for research findings.