Three in five (60 per cent) of bosses of small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) don’t always believe their employees when they call in sick, according to new research. Over a third of bosses (37 per cent) admit to checking social media profiles of staff they suspect of ‘pulling a sickie’ and one in four bosses (25 per cent) have no qualms about asking colleagues to call and check on employees they think are lying about being ill. It’s no surprise then that nearly half of employees (46 per cent) say they feel nervous about calling their boss – even when they are genuinely ill.
The research by AXA PPP healthcare also found that the impact of employee sick leave varies with company size. While micro-businesses of up to 10 staff have on average 5.2 sick days per employee per year, this increases to 6.8 days for companies with 100 to 250 employees. And the financial impact of sick leave for larger sized SMEs is significant – estimated at £3,500 a year for micro-businesses, this jumps to £40,500 p.a. for companies with 100 to 250 employees.
“Our research reveals a significant trust issue between managers and their employees. So much so that many staff say that calling in sick makes them nervous – even when they’re genuinely unwell,” said Chris Jessop, managing director of Health Services at AXA PPP healthcare.
“The findings also show that smaller sized firms are more effective at managing sickness absence. This may be down to better communication and trust between bosses and employees that can come from working closely together. Larger sized businesses could learn a lot from their smaller counterparts when it comes to employer–employee relationships.”
AXA PPP healthcare’s research into SME workplace issues also highlights a problem with stress:
- Half of SME employees (48 per cent) say they feel stressed at work two to three or more times a week.
- Money (34 per cent) tops the list of stressful worries, followed by work (31 per cent) and family issues (18 per cent).
- Two thirds (63 per cent) of SME bosses admit their companies don’t provide training for managers to look out for signs of stress, anxiety or depression in employees.
- Over half of bosses (55 per cent) don’t actively monitor employee stress levels and three quarters (73 per cent) say they have no initiatives in place to support good mental health in the workplace.
“Larger sized SMEs need to take a more active role in managing employee health and wellbeing. Providing access to confidential counselling, for example, can help employees to deal more effectively with the pressures in their lives – and help prevent them from spiralling into mental health problems. Measures such as this can have a big effect on making employees feel valued and in turn boost performance and productivity,” concluded Chris Jessop.