A new survey from Hewitt Associates, a global human resources services company, shows that sickness costs UK companies more than £1,000 per employee every year.
In addition, absenteeism is costing employers at least £662 per employee, although this rises by as much as 60% once indirect costs, such as lost productivity, overtime and recruitment, are included.
The first Hewitt Healthcare Fundamentals Survey found that many companies are under-estimating their rate of absenteeism – and its financial impact – as less than two thirds of companies indicated that they properly record employee absenteeism.
The survey showed that the biggest causes of absenteeism are flu, muscular injuries such as back pain and repetitive strain injury, and stress and depression.
Some 56% of respondents said that stress is an issue for their organisation - yet only a third provide stress management coaching for their managers.
James Kenrick, head of UK Corporate Healthcare Consulting at Hewitt Associates, said:
“Poor employee health is an enormous problem for UK businesses, costing billions of pounds each year – yet companies are still not taking sufficient steps to handle the issue. In particular, this report shows that many employers do not properly monitor absenteeism, which means its real impact may be even greater.
“The report makes it clear that stress is predicted to be the main cause of employee ill-health in the next three years. If the UK economy worsens, stress levels can undoubtedly be expected to rise further, making this the biggest threat to employee health in the UK.”
Poor health and work absenteeism has long been recognised as a problem for UK employers.
According to a recent review by Dame Carol Black, the National Director for Health and Work at the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, the total cost of sickness and absenteeism to the UK economy is over £60 billion.
Some companies are taking measures to deal with their concerns about the cost of poor health among their employees.
As a result they are putting in place initiatives such as offering subsidised gym membership and promoting healthy eating programmes in order to improve standards of well-being.
Employers typically see a return of £3 for every £1 invested in employee health initiatives.
James Kenrick added:
”Reducing absenteeism is the ultimate goal for employers. To achieve this, they need to approach the problem from a total health management perspective. This means collecting quality data on the reasons behind absenteeism and developing a coordinated programme to encourage good health in their workforce.”