Bupa research: HR teams take measures to tackle winter absence

Over three quarters (78%) of human resources professionals have implemented policies to try to reduce staff absence in December, according to a poll by Bupa.

The Bupa December survey found one-third (33%) of organisations call staff in for questioning if they have more than three isolated days of sickness absence in December.

One in five (20%) threaten to withhold pay from employees discovered to have thrown a ‘sickie’ and 15% threaten to fire those that have behaved this way.

Three out of five (35%) respondents were unable to estimate the cost of December absence to their organisation, taking into account the cost of lost productivity, lost orders, temporary staff, overtime, and any other costs incurred as a direct result.

Just a quarter (25%) were able to put a figure on this, with the average amount reaching £67,736.

Four in ten (42%) HR professionals believe the true cause of winter absence is overindulgence or illness resulting from overindulgence. However, one-third (33%) do believe that absence rates are caused by an increase in genuine illness at this time of year.

The poll found that the most common method of preventing absence in December was to actively encourage employees to get a flu jab earlier in the year, as 35% of employers have done.

A small number of organisations (11%) make take-home hangover remedies available to all staff.

Others recognise the importance of exercise with 17% providing gym membership support to encourage staff to start a healthy lifestyle in December.

Dr Jenny Leeser, clinical director of occupational health at Bupa, said: “The winter months do see an increased rate of absence caused by seasonal illnesses, but the effect of the festive party season on the workplace cannot be ignored either.

“In any case, with widespread absence comes an increased workload, resulting in the potential for increased stress levels for the HR team, as well as the rest of the organisation.

“All businesses should think about preparing themselves ahead of this December dip, supporting employees that are being placed under increased pressure and putting advance measures in place to prevent the drop in attendance, such as offering flu jabs and encouraging a healthy lifestyle.”

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