Employees at large organisations take three times as many sick days as staff at micro firms

Research from Group Risk Development (GRiD), the industry body for the group risk protection sector, shows that employers with over 250 employees are more likely to have a significant absence issue among staff.

According to HR decision makers:

  • Companies with over 250 employees have the highest absence rates – averaging 7.5 days per year.
  • Micro businesses with between 1-9 staff only see their staff take an average of 2.8 days absence per year.

Five per cent of HR decision makers also admitted to not recording or monitoring absence at all, although this is more prevalent amongst SMEs (6%) than those with over 250 employees (1%). This equates to nearly 300,000 businesses across the UK with no way of knowing how often staff are off sick, whether they have a legitimate reason for being off work or whether specific individuals take more sick leave than others.

Furthermore, 55% of large businesses believe they have a higher sickness absence rate than their industry average, with 25% of these putting this down to ineffective absence management. This begs the question why they aren’t doing more to prevent it.

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD, believes that one issue to explore is that many organisations may not know that support for employers, line managers and employees exists at no extra cost via group risk products (employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness protection benefits). She said: “Employers that get the most from their group risk products don’t simply rely on them for an insurance payment, but use the inbuilt services to help keep people at work and also to facilitate a quick return to work – even in cases where no claim is made.”

Day one intervention
GRiD also stresses that some group risk products offer ‘day one intervention’ meaning that employers get help to manage workplace absence and employees are supported from the first day they are off work.

GRiD also points out that, in many cases, absence issues are not clear-cut for an employer: a combination of issues can cause a member of staff to be off work, and each issue may require a slightly different type of help. Musculoskeletal conditions may benefit from fast access to physiotherapy. Other absentees may need a second medical opinion. Employees suffering from stress or mental health problems may benefit from fast-tracked access to talking therapies or from utilising an Employee Assistance Programme, as would someone struggling with relationship problems, addiction, childcare or eldercare responsibilities. All of this support can be made available within group risk benefits.

Moxham continued: “No single organisation can expect to be an expert on every one of the issues its staff faces but, via the right group risk product, they can provide access to help, which can enable people to stay at or return to work, thus earning a salary and retaining a sense of normality.

“There are two sorts of communication strategies required here: the first is to make sure all staff know that support is available to help them stay in or get back to work. The second, which is often overlooked, is about how line managers can signpost their staff better to support and help the Board improve absence reporting and management.

“Keeping tabs on every single member of staff at a larger firm is by no means an easy feat – particularly for companies whose staff travel between or work in multiple locations. However, many of these companies may well already have group risk products in place whereby they can access support for individuals and the organisation as a whole, without requiring any additional expertise or spend.

“Where an organisation currently doesn’t buy in to group risk, we would certainly encourage them to consider it as, by offering such products to staff, management will benefit from an absence solution too.”