‘Sickies’ cost employers £1.75bn in 2002

Employers
fear that staff ‘pulling sickies’ could have cost business £1.75bn last year,
with many firms concerned that up to 30 per cent of absence is not genuine.

An
annual absence survey, by the CBI and AXA PPP healthcare published today, shows
the cost of overall workplace absence remains worryingly high, despite the
number of days lost falling to their lowest level in at least 15 years.

The
survey reveals firms paid £11.6bn in 2002 to cover the salaries of absent
individuals and resulting overtime and temporary cover.

This
equates to an average cost of £476 per employee. The overall figure is only
fractionally lower than the previous year, when companies paid out £11.8bn.

The
number of working days lost fell by 5.7 per cent in this survey, from 176
million in 2001 to 166 million in 2002. That is 6.8 days per employee, or 2.9
per cent of total working time – the lowest figures recorded since the survey
began in 1987.

The
CBI believes rising labour costs are the reason why the total cost of absence
remains high, despite falling absence levels.

John
Cridland, CBI deputy director-general, said: "Though employers believe
most absence is caused by genuine minor sickness, there are serious concerns
about the number of staff ‘throwing sickies’. 
There are too many people who will happily spend the day off work at the
expense of their employers and their hard-working colleagues."

The
survey shows absence falling most significantly in firms where senior managers
are responsible for absence management.

These
organisations lose an average of five days per employee each year, compared
with 7.6 where line managers have the responsibility.  

Return-to-work
interviews were found to be the most effective absence management tool.

By Quentin Reade

www.cbi.org.uk

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