Illegitimate Sickness Leave: The High Cost for SMEs
A new report suggests that the cost of UK employees pulling a sickie in small to medium sized companies is £900 million every year
HR software company breatheHR have just released a new survey report, focusing on attitudes towards holiday and sickness for both employers and employees within SMEs (small to medium sized companies with less than 250 employees).
1,002 employees and 504 business owners were interviewed for the survey, called The Sick Report 2017. The results make for interesting reading, and show definitively that workers taking sick leave when they are not in fact ill is a costly problem which needs addressing.
The survey shows that 16% of employees surveyed had pulled a sickie within the last 12 months. With 15.7 million people employed in SMEs in the UK, this could equate to 2,512,000 workers doing the same. Add in the statistic that people who improperly use sick leave do so on average three times a year, this means 7.5 million working days could be lost annually (assuming only one day is taken off in each instance). Factoring in an average UK salary of £27,000, this means a potential loss of £900 million to the economy every year due to this phenomenon.
23% of business owners say that staff absences directly cost them money to cover, and that’s aside of the financial implications of the reduction in productivity reported by 62%.
The top stated reason for employees pulling a sickie is taking a rest day, at 42%. Other reasons include being hungover (21%), to avoid stress (19%), taking an extra day for a pre-booked holiday (15%) and starting the weekend early (14%).
However, the report goes on to highlight areas of inconsistency within attitudes relating to absence. Considering the prevalence of illegitimate sickness leave, it’s somewhat unexpected to see that just 46% of employees take their full holiday allowance. It’s suggested that staff taking sickies instead of booked annual leave might be down to the latter requiring a notice period or having other stipulations.
It’s also suggested that employers could be setting a bad example themselves, potentially fostering an atmosphere where grievous use of annual leave is frowned upon; business owners surveyed took just 18 days holiday over the last year, and even less at 15 days for companies of 100-249 employees.
There are further inconsistencies in figures that show 52% of workers stating they still responded to work emails whilst off sick or on annual leave. This bad practice, if employees really are ill, could again be driven by poor management. 51% of employers admit to having contacted a member of staff on sick leave, and 36% have contacted staff on annual leave.
All of these findings suggest a few conclusions. First and foremost, absence management is not something a company of any size can afford to ignore, especially with smaller companies being the ones most affected by staff absences.
Secondly, looking at some of the most popular reasons why employees take sick leave when not actually ill, it’s important for employers to make sure that there are support measures in place if staff feel stressed or overwhelmed, and that these support measures are visibly signposted.
Lastly, employers must lead by example both in terms of taking annual leave themselves to promote wellness within the company, and also respecting annual leave and legitimate sick leave for their employees. This allows workers to focus on their own physical and mental health, ensuring that every day in the office is one spent at full productivity, without the risk of presenteeism.
Bodet’s Absence Management System enables you to identify unexpected absences in real time, and calculate the impact of absenteeism on your organisation through monitoring absence KPIs such as the Bradford Factor. This information can be used to identify absence patterns linked to causes such as stress, and support employees before long term issues occur, assisting your wellbeing strategy.
If you would like to see how we can help your organisation with absence management, please contact us.