Workplace absence on the rise

Employee absence increased in 2006 as employees took an average of seven days of sick, which totals 175 million working days at†a cost to the economy of £13.4bn.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI)/AXA Absence & labour turnover survey 2007 also showed that organisations which offer rehabilitation programmes and flexible working can help employees back to work and lose less time to absence. Rehabilitation policies are currently offered by 89% of employers, while 39% of respondents consider working with GPs as the most helpful factor in improving of offering rehabilitation services.

The research also found that long-term absence of 20 days or more accounts for 43% of all working time lost, but that short-term absence is a key concern. Employers believe around 12% of absences are suspect and involve staff ‘pulling a sickie’. When asked for reasons behind bogus sick days, 70% of employers felt staff are inclined to take Fridays or Mondays off sick to create a long weekend, while†68% believed there was a link between bogus absence†and holidays, and 39% said absence was linked to special events.

Susan Anderson, CBI director of human resources policy, said: "People with long-term illnesses need time to recover. But firms that keep in touch with employees and offer the support and flexible working that helps them return to work earlier have had real success in reducing long-term absence levels.

"Some degree of short-term absence is inevitable, but there is a lot that employers can do to manage it. The best organisations use a carrot and stick approach to reward good attendees and tackle the worst offenders."