The average UK absence rate in 2008 equated to 8.1 days per employee, with an average cost of £601 per person, according to a recent survey by Personnel Today‘s sister publication IRS Employment Review.
The survey of 213 employers – covering a combined workforce of 961,000 staff – found that this approximately equates to a median cost of £76.50 and an average cost of £83.50 per day.
The findings showed there had been little change in absence levels between 2007 and 2008. The median (midpoint) absence rate in the UK in 2007 was 3.2% and the average rate was 3.6%, while the figures for 2008 were almost identical, at 3.1% and 3.6% respectively.
Public sector employers continued to experience higher absence rates in 2008, with a median percentage of working time lost to absence last year of 3.8%. This is in comparison to 3.1% among private sector services organisations, and 2.9% among manufacturing and production employers.
The findings also showed that absence is far more prevalent among larger organisations. The median absence rate stood at 2.6% among small and medium-sized enterprises, while the figure was 3.1% in large organisations, and 3.8% among the biggest organisations.
In terms of absence rates by occupation, figures ranged from a low of 2% among managers and sales and marketing staff, to a high of 4.4% among healthcare professionals. However, many employers were unable to supply statistics according to occupational group as they do not appear to analyse their absence data in this way.
Difficulties were also encountered when attempting to estimate the financial impact of absence. Among the employers that were able to supply a figure for their absence costs, 81% only took the salaries of absentees into account.
In particular, these employers did not take into consideration factors such as the costs of covering for absent staff, such as paying for overtime or agency staff. The financial impact of absence on factors such as performance and productivity was not measured by 94% of the respondents. And the same number did not quantify the indirect financial impact of absence caused by factors such as reduced customer service and missed business opportunities.