Absenteeism costing U.K. businesses $50 billion

Public sector, retail have highest rates: Survey
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 04/28/2011

Workers in the United Kingdom take an average of 10 sick days per year, according to a recent survey.

Absenteeism is costing British businesses about $50 billion per year, which is likely a conservative estimate as it reflects direct cost of absence only and does not take into account potential replacement costs and lost productivity, according to the survey of 2,000 companies by PwC.

Sickness accounts for nearly 80 per cent of sick days taken, which also covers jury service and compassionate leave, found the survey.

“With sickness accounting for the lion’s share of absence, the question for employers is what can be done to improve health, morale and motivation,” said Richard Phelps, an HR consulting partner at PwC. “The line between ‘sickie’ and ‘sickness’ can be blurred, with disenchantment at work sometimes exacerbating medical conditions or preventing a speedy return.”

The number of sick days taken in the U.K. is around twice that of the United States (5.5 days) and Asia-Pacific (4.5 days), but on a par with Western Europe (9.7 days).

Absence levels, and how employers approach the problem, vary significantly across industries. Technology companies have the lowest absence rates of any sector at 7.6 days, found the survey.

“Technology firms are often innovative in all that they do, including keeping employees committed,” said Phelps. "Intellectual capital is hugely important for these businesses, so making sure they get the best out of their people and avoid unnecessary absence is a priority.”

The public sector has the highest absence levels, averaging 12.2 days. Absenteeism is also a problem for retail and leisure at 11.5 days.

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