EXCLUSIVE: 22% blame high employee absence rates on lack of health and wellbeing initiatives

Katherine Moxham

EXCLUSIVE: More than one-fifth (22%) of employer respondents believe that their employee absence rates are higher than other organisations because they do not have health and wellbeing initiatives in place, according to research by Group Risk Development (Grid).

Its survey of 500 UK employers, including 100 employers with more than 250 employees, also found that 20% of respondents feel their employee absence rates are higher because of poor work-life balance, compared to 24% who cite ineffective absence management processes as the reason for higher employee absence rates.

The research also found:

  • 27% of respondents blame work-related stress as the key reason why employees take time off, compared to 14% who believe their high employee absence rates are due to not having income protection in place.
  • 34% of respondents think their employee absence rates are lower than other organisations because of their flexible working initiatives, compared to 50% who feel a good work-life balance contributes to their low employee absence rates and 16% who think their absence rates are lower because of the health and wellness initiatives they have in place.
  • 8% of respondents believe their employee absence rates are lower because of presenteeism, compared to 7% who think it is because they have income protection in place, 14% who believe it is linked to having an absence management system in place and 57% who feel good morale is a key contributing factor.
  • 12% of respondents think that the main cause of short-term and long-term absences at their organisation is stress-related mental ill health.
  • 20% of respondents believe that the main cause of short-term absences up to 26 weeks at their organisation is home or family issues, compared to 10% who cite issues with providing eldercare and 17% who blame childcare issues.
  • 19% of respondents cite acute medical conditions, such as a heart attack or cancer, as the main reason for long-term absences of more than six months at their organisation, compared to 12% who believe the main cause is musculoskeletal conditions, for example back pain, and 13% who cite recurring or chronic medical conditions, like diabetes, as the main cause of long-term absence.
  • 55% of respondents with more than 250 employees believe their sickness absence rate is higher than their industry average.

Katherine Moxham (pictured), spokesperson at Grid, said: “It’s interesting to see how many stress-related conditions or stress-inducing situations are cited as a reason for higher absence, [for example,] staff shortages, work-related stress, poor work-life balance and low morale; also, that employers recognise that not having income protection in place also contributes to higher absence. Group income protection can be a great support for vocational rehabilitation and absence management.

“The stress theme is backed up by the reasons cited for lower absence; absence is lower where there is support to reduce stress, [for example,] a good work-life balance, health and wellbeing initiatives [and] good morale.

“Drilling down into the main reasons for absence, we can see that stress-related conditions, other mental health conditions and stress-inducing situations such as home [and] family issues, elder and childcare issues are really impacting on attendance and thus productivity. That’s why it’s so important for employers to support their people through these situations and using the services that come along with group risk products can have incredibly positive results here.”