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The cost of absence to your business: 6 tips for reducing the loss

As a business, your employees are your greatest asset. With the right team in place, you can improve productivity and move towards goals. But one challenge many firms face is employee absence.

Across the UK, it costs billions of pounds every year. However, there are things you can do to lower your employee absence and associated costs. Employee absences are part of business, people will get sick or need time off for other reasons. Yet, if you find employees are frequently absent it may be a sign that changes within the firm could help.

Dan Cockram, Director at Blue Corporate believes that businesses who understand absence and the challenges facing their staff can offer support that benefits both employees and the employer.

“Traditionally, businesses have tended to manage absence in a very reactive manner. Health and wellbeing is an important topic for many people these days, individuals like to take a more proactive approach to their own health and wellbeing and businesses who adopt a similar approach can reap the rewards.”

“Proactively offering health and wellbeing support to staff can be a great way of engaging with your workforce and letting staff know you care whilst also attempting to tackle the cost of absence to your business.”

How much does employee absence cost?

Did you know the average employee takes 4.4 days off work due to sickness or injury? According to the Office of National Statistics, 141.4 million sick days were taken in 2018. This is an increase compared to the previous year when employees were off for an average of 4.1 days. The most common reasons for being absent were:

  • Minor illnesses (27.2%)
  • Musculoskeletal problems (19.7%)
  • Other conditions (13.7%)
  • Mental health conditions (12.4%)

Whilst illness and injury aren’t something you have control over, sick days can have a significant impact on your business. Focussing on UK SMEs, a report found that employee absence costs £900 million every year. When you add in large businesses, this figure easily exceeds billions of pounds.

So, what impact could employee absence be having on your business?

It can be a difficult figure to calculate. You not only have to account for the lost productivity of an individual but may also need to include the impact it could have on the wider team. The final figure could be far higher than expected. Luckily, there are things you can do to reduce employee absences.

6 ways to reduce employee absence


1. Launch an employee wellbeing program

An effective employee wellbeing program is a proactive approach to reducing absenteeism. It’s a step that could improve the overall health and wellbeing of staff too. An employee wellbeing program can encompass many different areas. It could include lifestyle assessment days to identify health issues or management training days to improve education. Your goal should be to provide the best tools to help employees make positive lifestyle choices or changes where necessary.

2. Focus on keeping employees motivated and engaged

Did you know two in five adults would fake a sick day if they wanted a day off? Finding ways to keep employees engaged with their work could reduce losses. There are plenty of ways you can incentivise staff to keep them motivated. It can be as simple as offering snacks and ensuring they feel like their voices are heard. It’s an opportunity to show your appreciation for the work employees do every day too. Employee benefits that have a focus on promoting health and wellbeing can also be a great way to engage with staff, these products and services can give staff the tools to take health and wellbeing into their own hands.

3. Manage and review workloads

Mental health is having an impact on employee absence. One in six people report experiencing common mental health problems a week. Reviewing employee expectations could highlight where workplace stress is playing a role. Where workloads are causing stress, it could mean employees are taking sick days that could be avoided. Chatting with your employees about their work can help identify where change may need to be made. It’s also a chance to learn where improvement could be made and about employee aspirations, which can help push the business forward.

4. Provide support for employees

At times, personal life will affect work. Creating an environment where employees feel as though they can talk to you or managers can help reduce employee absence. There may be a genuine reason why they’re taking extra time off. With the right kind of support and understanding, you may be able to create a solution that means they can focus on work too. This is an approach that could also help with retaining staff. An employee assistance programme can supplement internal support and give employees independent guidance if they feel more comfortable taking this route.

5. Introduce flexible working options

Do you currently allow flexible working? This could be working from home or flexibility for working hours. It’s something more businesses are incorporating into their operations. It gives employees a chance to take time off work when needed without costing you. There will be times when people feel too ill to come into the office but able to complete some tasks from home, for example. A flexible approach also means fake sick days to work around appointments are avoided too by allowing staff to adjust hours where necessary.

6. Have clear procedures in place

Having clear procedures in place regarding absences can help too. If you have disciplinary procedures, back to work meetings or trigger points, ensuring all staff are aware of these can reduce the number of sick days taken. It’s equally important to educate employees why you have these in place.

If you’d like to discuss your employee benefits and how these could reduce employee absences, please get in touch. Our goal is to help you reward and retain staff to build a positive, productive workforce that captures your values.


Articles on this website are offered only for general informational and educational purposes. They are not offered as and do not constitute financial advice. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this website without first seeking advice from a professional.


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