The issue of absenteeism is affecting profitability in the UK’s SME sector, according to 71 per cent of firms questioned in a survey commissioned by Moorepay.
The research found that small businesses are experiencing higher than average absenteeism – the Office for National Statistics reported that the average number of sick days for a UK employee is 4.3 days per year, yet 49 per cent of small business owners said staff were taking more than five days per year. For 14 per cent of small businesses, this figure rose to seven or more days.
Despite this, few firms are acting on reducing absenteeism and nine per cent do not even track absences. Around 72 per cent of business owners believe that introducing policies such as flexible working, time off for family reasons and return to work programmes could reduce the rate of absenteeism by as much as 11 per cent of more.
“According to NICE, the National Institute for Healthcare Excellence, it is estimated that absenteeism costs the UK economy £15bn a year. And yet, many SMEs have inaccurate or incomplete data on staff absences and are unable to accurately assess how much it is costing their business,” explained Lisa Gillespie, director of HR services at Moorepay.
“Those that recognise the business and financial implications are often spurred on to take action. Having insights into absenteeism and taking positive steps to reduce it can have a major impact on business productivity and therefore profitability – something no business can afford to ignore.”
Adrian Lewis of Activ Absence said: “We’ve heard a lot this year about presenteeism being the new absenteeism, but actually both arise because many businesses, even large ones, don’t keep accurate records of who’s off, when and why, and managers struggle to achieve the right balance discipline wise.
“It’s not only sick days, lots of companies don’t even accurately track staff holiday throughout the year and then have a staffing crisis in December because everyone has too much leave left to take.”
According to the ONS, an estimated 137.3m working days were lost in the UK in 2016 due to illness or injury.
Minor illnesses such as coughs and colds were the most common cause of a sick day in 2016, accounting for 24.8 per cent of days lost.
Other reasons included musculoskeletal problems such as back or neck pain (22.4 per cent), and mental health issues (11.5 per cent).