Workplace absence rates are at their highest level since 1996, according to
a study by the Work Foundation.
Overall absence rates were 4.12 per cent in 2002 – or the equivalent of nine
days a year per employee – up from 2.9 per cent in 2001, the study of 400 HR
professionals found. The problem is particularly acute in the public and
voluntary sectors, where the absence rate has more that doubled from 2.97 per
cent to 7.86 per cent.
The top five reasons given by employees for time off were colds or flu, food
poisoning or stomach upsets, headaches or migraines, stress, emotional or
personal problems, and back problems.
Employers believed the most effective methods for maximising attendance were
return-to-work interviews, motivation, accurate monitoring, and training of
line managers. A written absence policy was rated as important by 44 per cent
of those polled.
Most managers also believed the introduction of flexible working to allow
workers time off for dealing with personal issues, rather than calling in sick,
would help reduce sickness absence rates.