Reducing Sickness Absence Rates

It seems that every week more shocking figures are released regarding the sickness absence figures of nations, as well as facts suggesting that a high percentage of workers are so-called ‘binge working’ up to 70 hours a week.  Some French companies have even banned answering emails after 6pm in an attempt to ensure their employees are refreshed for the next working day.

One of the latest reports by LV reveals that the average British worker spends almost a year (360 days) off sick in his/her working life, which equates to almost a year and a half in an average 45 year career.

According to the latest figures 131 million days are lost per year due to sickness absences in the UK.  This adds up to six days per year per worker with over 13 million of these lost due to stress and depression. The research suggests that stress and depression are two of the most common long-term illnesses affecting workers in Britain, with an average of two and a half months off to recover.

The average amount of time someone has off with stress is 81 days, however over 650,000 (2.9%) UK workers have been off with stress for more than a year during their career.  In the last three years alone one in 50 (435,800) workers has been off sick for more than a year.

According to the research the five most common illnesses affecting working Britons are Stress/Depression – 81 days , Bad back – 57 days, Severe migraines – 18 days, Ear infection – 13 days, ‘Flu – 10 days.  Recent research from business advisers PwC shows sick days alone are costing British business almost £29bn a year and workers are taking more than four times as many days off work as their counterparts in other countries.

Sickness absence rates tend to increase following a merger, acquisition or change of ownership, leader or manager, as workers struggle to come to terms with the uncertainty, pressure and effects of major change.  However, many other factors may be involved, from workers struggling to cope with key life events such as divorce, as well as dealing with interpersonal disputes and high workloads.

In many studies it has been proven that preventative methods such as Stress and Change Management Training can significantly reduce overall sickness absence levels by up to 33%.  At Natural Talent we have received feedback from some clients that our one or two day Stress/Change Management Programmes have reduced sickness absence levels by up to 76% over 6 – 12 months.  Additionally, if an organization invests in an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), where confidential advice is provided on a whole range of issues including legal and financial, sickness absence rates tend to be lower than the norm.  Other initiatives to increase overall morale, employee engagement and attendance include pre-agreed ‘duvet’ and ‘hack’ days, as well as home working and more flexible hours and organizations providing PHI and PMI.  What are your experiences?

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