SME bosses do not believe employees are genuinely ill

Nearly two-thirds (60%) of bosses of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) suspect that the wool is being pulled over their eyes and do not always believe employees when they call in sick, according to new research.

A study by health insurer Axa PPP healthcare found that more than one-third of bosses checked social media profiles of staff they suspected of "pulling a sickie" and a quarter had no qualms about asking colleagues to call and check up on them. It was, therefore, no surprise that nearly half of employees said that they felt nervous about calling their boss, even when they are genuinely ill.

While micro businesses of up to 10 staff recorded 5.2 sick days per employee per year on average, this increased to 6.8 days for companies with between 100 and 250 employees. When it came to financial impact, it was estimated at £3,500 per year for micro businesses but at £40,500 per year for companies with between 100 and 250 employees.

Nearly half of SME employees said that they felt stressed at work two to three or more times per week, with money, work and family issues topping their list of stressful worries.

Two-thirds of SME bosses admitted that their companies did not provide training for managers to look out for signs of stress, anxiety or depression in employees. More than half of bosses said they did not monitor employee stress levels, and nearly three-quarters said they have no initiatives in place to support good mental health.

"Larger SMEs need to take a more active role in managing employee wellbeing. Providing access to confidential counselling, for example, can help employees to deal more effectively with the pressures in their lives – and help prevent mental health problems," said Chris Jessop, managing director of health services at Axa PPP healthcare.

3 Responses to SME bosses do not believe employees are genuinely ill

  1. Avatar
    Matthew Davis 27 Nov 2013 at 5:02 pm #

    This is typical of the ‘bleak house’ model many SME organisations have evolved into. Many smaller SMEs have little in the way of HR skills available or they only employ basic personnel administration practices. Trust in these types of organisations is often lacking and leads to low employee engagement and a self fulfilling prophesy.

  2. Avatar
    Rightsteps Wellbeing 28 Nov 2013 at 9:09 am #

    All line managers should be trained in noticing the signs of stress and depression. Also, more open dialogue is needed in workplace environments to encourage employees to be honest about the reasons behind their absence. Employee wellbeing does not need a dedicated HR team, a proactive line manager should notice signs of stress and be able to guide their employees to the relevant support.

  3. Avatar
    Philip Smith 3 Dec 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    An example is that, where companies have arranged access to physiotherapy assessments for those suffering back pain, employees can avoid absence by learning about triggers, and exercises and save the costs of ill-health absence. A win-win situation.