Absence days lost to illness fall

Employers are losing fewer working days to sickness absence, a report from HR website XpertHR finds.

Analysis of data for 2017 shows that, at the median, employers lost 5.6 days for each employee over the course of the year. This was down from a median 6.6 days for 2016, but a return to the levels that have held sway since the beginning of the decade (see table).

In financial terms, the median cost to employers rose from £455 in 2016 to £570 in 2017. But even this is likely to be an underestimate, with many employers not counting anything beyond the direct salary costs of the individuals on sick leave.

With HR professionals keen to make the business case for effective approaches to managing sickness absence, however, organisations need to start counting the cost of reduced levels of customer service and missed business opportunities, and to include these in truer costings.

XpertHR has now been collecting and analysing employee absence data for 12 years, with this year’s findings based on data from 287 organisations covering 398,453 employees across all industries.

Among the headline findings, in the XpertHR report:

  • Median absence rates stand at 5.6 days or 2.5% of working time;
  • Mean average absence rates stand at 6.1 days or 2.8% of working time;
  • Excluding long-term absences (periods of more than four weeks’ continuous absence), the median is 3.3 days and the mean 3.1 days; and
  • Absence rates are highest in large organisations and in the public sector.

By region, median absence rates are highest in Wales (3%), the North West of England (2.8%) and the South West of England (2.8%). They are lowest in London (2%), the South East of England (2.3%) and the North East of England and Scotland (both 2.5%).

Commenting on the findings, XpertHR Senior HR Practice Editor Noelle Murphy said:

“Sickness absence has a direct impact on business, and employers are consistently interested in initiatives to measure, manage and tackle the problem. But many HR departments fall at the first hurdle – not knowing the true cost of absence or the reasons underlying it. Better measurement of sickness absence and its associated costs should in turn make it easier to persuade managers to engage with absence management initiatives.”

 

Absence rates for all employers, 2006-2017
Calendar year Median, % of working time Median, days per employee
2017 2.5% 5.6
2016 2.9% 6.6
2015 2.6% 5.8
2014 2.5% 5.7
2013 2.3% 5.2
2012 2.6% 5.9
2011 2.5% 5.7
2010 2.8% 6.4
2009 3.0% 6.8
2008 3.1% 7.1
2007 3.2% 7.4
2006 3.5% 8.0
Source: XpertHR.

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