High levels of short-term sickness absence can be a costly problem for organisations. This article looks at the steps employers can take to manage short-term sickness absence.
Employers are likely to experience the highest levels of sickness absence between January and March compared with the rest of the year. A spike in absence during the cold winter months could be because of:
- The cold weather;
- Commuting in the dark;
- Mounting debt caused by an influx of post-Christmas credit card bills; and
- The long gap between the Christmas holidays and the next bank holiday i.e. 19 April 2019.
The latest sickness absence figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that more than 34 million working days were lost to minor illnesses, such as coughs and colds in 2017. Sickness absences in 2018 cost UK employers an average of £656 per employee, with the impact of this more acutely felt by small to medium businesses.
Employers looking to tackle short-term intermittent sickness absence may want to consider the following steps:
- Offer flexible working options – employers with flexible working options have been found to be less likely to have high levels of sickness absence. Employees can take advantage of the flexible arrangements and work from home if they are feeling unwell.
- Monitor sickness absences – employers that have effective sickness absence management processes are less likely to have high sickness levels.
- Promote health and well-being in the workplace – employers can support the health and well-being of the workforce by, for example: arranging flu jabs in work-time; increasing awareness of resilience and mental health; and offering opportunities to take part in yoga or meditation sessions.
Offer ‘duvet days’ – some employers have found that allowing employees one or two ‘duvet days’ per year (where an employee can call in and take a day’s unpaid leave or use unscheduled annual leave simply because they want to stay in bed for the day) can help to reduce sickness absence levels.
Limit the amount of annual leave employees take in the summer – some employees may take the majority of their annual leave in the summer and fail to save enough annual leave for the winter months. Limiting the amount of leave that employees can take over the summer will help to minimise the number of employees that feel that they have to take a sick day when they want a day off in the winter months.