Sickness absence on the increase

Overall
sickness absence rates have increased by more than a third over the last year
according to the latest research from The Work Foundation.

The
survey of 400 HR professionals reveals that absence rates in 2002 have
increased to 4.12 per cent (or nine days per employee per year) – up from 2.9
per cent in 2001. 

The
problem is particularly acute in the public and voluntary sectors – where the
absence rate has more that doubled from 2.97 per cent in 2001 to 7.86 per cent
in 2002. 

The
new figures reverse the previous downward trend and are the highest since 1996
when The Work Foundation began monitoring absence.

Managers
believe the most common reasons for absence are cold/flu (59 per cent),
stress/emotional/personal problems (58 per cent) and ‘Monday morning syndrome’.

Other
reasons include sickness of other family member/childcare problems (36 per
cent), the concept of taking sick leave entitlement (31 per cent), and low
morale/boring job (31 per cent). 

The
Work Foundation’s deputy director of research Stephen Bevan said: “I think the
figures reflect more an increase in long-term absenteeism than short-term
[absence]. Issues relating to mental ill health such as stress are one of the
reasons for the increase.”

More
than half of the responding organisations offer flexible working. Two-thirds of
these believe that flexible working hours help to reduce absence, as do
flexible annual leave (49 per cent) and occasional homeworking (48 per cent).

By Ben Willmott

Top
causes of sickness absence

1
Colds/flu

2
Stress

3
Monday morning blues

4
Staff taking sick day ‘entitlement’

5
Low morale

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