Thursday, 2 August 2018

Reduced absenteeism at work isn’t necessarily a sign of a healthy workforce

Guest Blog by Adrian Lewis, Director Activ Absence responds to the latest ONS figures on sickness absence

New figures published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) this week have revealed that the number of sickness days have almost halved over the past two decades to reach a record low. Absence figures dropped from an average of 7.2 days in 1993 to 4.1 days in 2017 and have been steadily falling since 1999.

Responding to the figures, absence management specialist, Adrian Lewis, Director of Activ Absence says,

“At first glance these figures look very promising. Absence figures have been reducing for several years. However, other trends have emerged that are impacting workforces increasingly, including mental health issues and employers need to take note.”

Lewis highlights the rise in younger workers aged 25 to 34 who attribute their sickness absence to mental health conditions. For older workers between 50 and 64 years old musculoskeletal problems, such as back and joint pain, accounted for 20.8% of sickness absence.

Lewis also notes a rise in presenteeism, also highlighted in research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in May,[i] which showed that the number of companies reporting a rise in employees going to work when ill had more than tripled since 2010.

Lewis continues,

“Employers shouldn’t take these new ONS sickness absence figures at face value. There are many reasons why people go into work sick, they may feel pressured by a high workload, be under financial pressure or be afraid of losing their jobs.

“Employers need to have the right systems in place to help them better understand their absence data and what it means for their organisation. Absence management software can provide companies with insight into sickness patterns and trends and help managers better understand what issues affect their people. Identifying the root causes and working with people to address any issues is key to tackling both presenteeism and absenteeism.”


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