July 15, 2013
Fall in sickness absence rates, but mental ill health still major cause
Mental health conditions are the single most widespread cause of long-term absence, with more than half (54 per cent) of employers citing non-work related stress, anxiety and depression as a cause of long-term absence. On a more positive note, according to the latest CBI/Pfizer Absence and Workplace Health Survey out today, overall absence from work in the UK has dropped to a new record low. The thirty-year survey found the average absence rate was 5.3 days in 2012, down from 6.5 days in 2010 – saving business £3 billion. However, the report, Fit for Purpose, found overall absences still cost the economy £14 billion a year, according to the ONS. Almost £1.8 billion was lost from an estimated one-in-eight sick days taken for non-genuine reasons, with one in five employers believing employees take “sickies” as an occasional perk. While absence rates in both the public and private sector were down to 6.9 (from 8.1) and 4.9 (from 5.9) days respectively, the report argues more than £1.2 billion a year could be saved if public sector absence levels were brought in line with the private sector average – on top of the £700 million saved from the fall since 2010.
Neil Carberry, CBI Director of Employment and Skills said: “The record low shows employers are getting much better at tackling the root causes of absence. This is down to stronger staff engagement, initiatives to foster employee health and better re-integration plans after longer-term sick leave.
“But there is no room for complacency. Clearly, when staff are sick, they should not be in work, but there’s a lot more employers can do to tackle absence at a time when growth is fragile.
“The cost of non-genuine sick days is high and it is worrying that more than one in five employers think staff take paid absence as an occasional perk.” HR managers in 153 public and private sector organisations, employing 850,000 workers, responded to the survey.
Jonathan Emms, Pfizer UK Managing Director, said: “By drawing together data on both absence trends and management strategies, this report highlights how greater progress can be made towards maximising wellness, minimising illness and helping people to stay in, or get back to work.”
Other key findings of the CBI/Pfizer Absence and Workplace Health Survey 2013 revealed a gap of more than three days a year in average absence levels between the best-performing quartile of organisations and the worst with average levels of absence climbing according to organisation size. Smaller firms average under five days of absence per employee while larger firms average nearly six days.