Managers suspect that 12% of absences last year involved staff ‘pulling a sickie’, which translated into a loss of 21 million days at a cost of £1.6bn to the economy.
A survey conducted by the CBI, and insurer AXA, found that seven out of 10 employers believed staff liked to extend their weekend by taking Mondays or Fridays off sick, while 39% said possible fake illness claims were linked to special events, including major sporting tournaments.
Susan Anderson, CBI director of human resources policy, pointed to a “culture of absenteeism” which exists in too many workplaces. She said: “We’ve all just enjoyed the four day Easter weekend, but some people think they have a right to use ‘sickies’ to take long weekends or extend holidays as they please. Unauthorised absence puts colleagues under unfair pressure, and loses employers and taxpayers well over a billion pounds.”
Colds, flu and other minor illness were identified by 99% of respondents as one of the top five main causes of short-term sickness, with back pain second in the rankings.
Overall, the survey revealed that workers took an average of seven days off sick last year – a loss of 175 million working days at cost of £13.4bn – compared with an average of 6.6 days in 2005.
The CBI surveyed 400 private firms and public sector organisations and found that long-term absence of 20 days or more accounted for 43% of all working time lost, costing £5.8bn. The most significant cause of long-term absence among non-manual staff was non-work related mental ill health including stress, anxiety and depression, according to 72% of respondents.
Public sector workers recorded the highest average absence at nine days per worker, while the private sector lost an average of 6.3 days,.
“The gap between organisations with the highest and lowest absences is more than nine days, and clearly some are managing absence better than others,” Anderson concluded.