Absenteeism at record low

Absence from work in the UK has dropped to a new record low, according to research by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

The CBI/Pfizer Absence and workplace health survey, which questioned HR managers in 153 organisations employing 850,000 people across the UK, found the average absence rate was 5.3 days in 2012, down from 6.5 days in 2010, saving UK business £3 billion.

The research found that absence rates in both the public and private sector were down to 6.9 (from 8.1) and 4.9 (from 5.9) days, respectively.

The research also found:

  • Mental health conditions emerged as the single most widespread cause of long-term absence from the workplace, with 54% of employers citing non-work related stress, anxiety and depression as a cause of long-term absence for non-manual workers, and slightly fewer (42%) for manual workers.
  • Almost £1.8 billion was lost from an estimated one-in-eight sick days taken for non-genuine reasons, with one in five employers believing employees take sickies as an occasional perk.
  • Two-thirds of employers claim the new fit note system is not being used to its full potential.

Neil Carberry (pictured), director of employment and skills at the CBI, said: “The record low shows employers are getting much better at tackling the root causes of absence.

“This is down to stronger staff engagement, initiatives to foster employee health and better re-integration plans after longer-term sick leave.

“But there is no room for complacency. Clearly, when staff are sick, they should not be in work, but there’s a lot more employers can do to tackle absence at a time when growth is fragile.”

Jonathan Emms, UK managing director at Pfizer, added: “It is welcome news that absence from the workplace has fallen to record low levels.

“The report highlights the importance of early intervention and proactive management strategies in tackling the underlying causes of absence.

“By drawing together data on both absence trends and management strategies, this report highlights how greater progress can be made towards maximising wellness, minimising illness and helping people to stay in, or get back to, work.”