Top level influence cuts absence rates

Organisations where senior management rather than line managers have
responsibility for absence are more successful at reducing the number of days
staff take off through sickness.

The CBI’s annual survey looking into the costs and reasons for absence in UK
industries finds the overall number of days lost fell by 5.7 per cent in 2002
to an average of 6.8 days per employee.

However, in organisations where senior managers have responsibility for
absence management, the number of days lost per employee was just five,
compared to 7.6 days where line managers have responsibility.

Clare Hinkley, policy adviser at the CBI, said the survey showed the clear
advantages of ensuring absence is managed from the top.

"When senior management sign up to an absence management policy, it
means a company is not just going through the motions," she said.

Hinkley added that line managers must strike a difficult balance between the
need to control absence and maintaining good day-to-day working relationships
with those they manage.

Line managers can also lack ready access to absence data, limiting their
ability to recognise patterns and carry out targeted ab- sence management

The survey also shows that with 8.9 days lost a year, public sector absence
is much higher than the private sector, where 6.5 days were lost on average.

The study reveals that one of the reasons for the slight drop in days lost
is that employers are generally becoming more sophisticated at absence
management, such as return-to-work interviews.

The survey of more than 500 employers finds the cost of absence to business
remains high at £11.6bn in 2002.

By Ben Willmott

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