Workplace absence rates no longer falling

Progress made in reducing absence in the workplace appears to have come to a halt, according to the latest absence survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

The annual snapshot of absence by the CIPD and health insurer Simplyhealth has found that after reporting a decrease in 2012, absence levels are now back up to those observed in 2011 and 2010.

The average was back up to 7.6 days per employee after falling to 6.8 days in 2012’s survey. The absence rates in public-services organisations averaged the highest, at 8.7 days per employee per year, and manufacturing and production companies had the lowest rate, at six days per employee per year. More positively, employers did appear to be responding to the challenge, with more firms being prepared to adjust working patterns and environments as a result.

A total of 85% of employers reported that they had adjusted working patterns this year, compared with 65% in last year’s survey.

More than 70% of organisations reported that introducing flexible working opportunities in the past year had had a positive impact on absence levels.

Overall, two-thirds of working time lost to absence was accounted for by short-term absences of up to seven days. One-fifth was attributed to long-term absences of four weeks or more. The survey also found that just under half of absence in the public sector was short term, compared with more than three-quarters in the private sector.

Smaller organisations attributed a higher proportion of their absence to short-term leave, compared with larger organisations.

The data also suggested employers were actively looking at what reasonable adjustments could be made at work to help employees return after a period of absence.

Small changes to working hours, such as working 10am to 6pm instead of the traditional 9am to 5pm, could often help employees better balance their responsibilities in and outside of work, it found.

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