Employer absenteeism costs rise

Employer
absenteeism costs have risen by more than a billion pounds despite staff
time-off falling to the lowest level for 14 years, according to a CBI survey.

The
Counting the Cost report shows that the number of working days lost fell by 16
million, from 192 million in 2000 to 176 million in 2001. This equates to 7.1
days per employee, the lowest figures recorded since the survey began in 1987.

The
annual absence and labour turnover survey shows the average cost of absence per
employee rose to its highest level for five years from £10.7bn in 2000 to
£11.8bn in 2001.

Absence
rates were lowest in organisations where senior managers take responsibility
for managing absence. These organisations lose, on average, five days per
employee per year, compared with 7.6 where it is left to line managers.
Return-to-work interviews were the most effective absence management tool,
followed by disciplinary measures.

Susan
Anderson, CBI director of HR policy, said: "Concerns about job security
and better absence management led to a fall in days lost but firms say costs
increased. They are under greater competitive pressures and, with less slack in
their operations, providing cover is likely to mean extra spending on overtime
or temps.

"This
survey shows the key to reducing absence is senior management involvement. But,
while companies can do more, business wants a quick and efficient health
service to help people get back to work. It will be looking for results from
the £3bn extra tax burden imposed on it in this year’s budget."

In
the public sector, an average 10.1 days were lost, compared with an average 6.7
in the private sector. The public sector employs 27 per cent of the workforce
but, at £3.6bn, accounts for 32 per cent of the total cost.

The
link between company size and absence levels has strengthened. Organisations
employing less than 50 lost an average 4.5 days per employee, 1.4 days less
than last year. In firms employing over 5,000, the average is 9.6, a slight
increase on the previous year.

By Paul Nelson

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