Absence costs £500 a year per employee

Absence accounted for 3.2% of working time lost in the UK in 2007 at an estimated cost of £500 per head, according to recent research.

A survey by Personnel Today‘s sister publication Employment Review of 240 employers – with a combined workforce of more than 500,000 staff – shows that the median absence rate of 3.2% was equivalent to 7.4 days per employee.

Regional absence rates 2007

Common absence trends continued to prevail last year, with larger employers tending to have higher rates of absence than their smaller counterparts. The largest were found to have a median absence rate of 3.8%, while the rate for smaller and medium-sized enterprises was 2.8%.

The findings show most employers do not calculate the cost of absence to their organisations, with almost two in three respondents (62.9%) being unable to provide any such costings for the survey.

Among those that could, the figure varied from employer to employer. In the public sector, for example, the cost of absence per staff member was found to be £623. But when averaged across the whole workforce, the cost was found to amount to £500 per head.

However, the survey found their limited calculation methods meant they were more likely to have underestimated the true costs involved. Seven in 10 (70%) based their calculations solely on the salaries of absent workers. Only about one in five included the cost of providing cover for absent workers (21% calculate the cost of using temporary staff, and 18% calculate the cost of overtime payments made to the colleagues of absent team members).

Less than 10% of respondents take into account any direct costs associated with absence from work, while 6% calculate costs arising from factors such as reduced performance, service levels and output.

And 4% assess the financial impact of factors such as reduced customer service and missed business opportunities.

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