Workplace absence cost the UK economy £12.2bn in 2004 – £1.7bn of which is due to staff “pulling sickies” rather than absence resulting from genuine ill-health, the CBI warned today.
The latest annual Absence Survey, conducted by the employers’ group and insurance firm Axa, shows that absence cost £495 per employee in 2004 compared with £475 per employee in the 2003 survey.
The overall cost of £12.2bn has increased from £11.6bn in the previous survey. These figures represent the cost of covering salaries for absent staff, the resulting overtime and temporary cover, and lost service or production time.
The survey of more than 500 organisations also shows that 6.8 working days were lost per employee in 2004.
The total number of days lost to absence across the UK economy fell by 4.5% to 168 million in 2004, from 176 million in 2003. That brings total absence back in line with the level seen in 2002 (166 million days).
John Cridland, CBI deputy director general, said: “Employers understand that staff are not invincible. They accept that the majority of absence is due to genuine minor illness and nobody is saying genuinely ill staff should drag themselves to work.
“But let’s be honest about this – there are some employees out there who will gladly award themselves a day off when they are in good health at the expense of their employers and hard-working colleagues.”
Eighty-seven per cent of organisations are taking action to reduce absence and return-to-work interviews are the most common absence management policy. Two-thirds of respondents have a stress management policy and 60% have rehabilitation schemes.
Cridland said: “The vast majority of employers are taking action to reduce unnecessary absence and to minimise its enormous cost. Companies and organisations are increasingly employing new and innovative methods to manage absence and to help people get back to work quickly.
“But business also needs efficient health services so staff can make swift recoveries. Employers will be looking to the newly-elected government to deliver on its promises for NHS reform.”