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Businesses believe that half of all sick days are not genuine

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UK business leaders believe that half of the lost working days due to sickness are not genuine, while some staff still look on a paid sick leave allowance as an extension of their annual holiday entitlement, reveals new independent research. The survey, “Absence Management – ten years on”, commissioned by HR and payroll software provider, MidlandHR and people solutions provider, FirstCare, polled 164 senior UK business people on how their organisations manage absence.    

Many of the questions in the new report were first asked in a MidlandHR survey ten years ago – and there has been little improvement since 1998. In fact, some attitudes are marginally worse. Today, more than two-thirds of respondents (69%) say they think some people abuse sick leave – treating it as additional holiday – up by one per cent compared with 68% ten years ago.   

Even so, nearly a quarter of those questioned don’t seem particularly concerned because they see tracking absence as unimportant – a worrying trend compared to ten years ago when just two per cent would have agreed. This could indicate that companies are merely playing lip service to absence monitoring. The public sector seems to see absence monitoring as less important than the private sector with 79% of the latter citing tracking sickness as quite or very important compared to 63% in the public sector.

Commenting on the research, Lawrence Knowles, managing director, MidlandHR,  said: “It is surprising that such a relatively large number of those questioned see tracking absence as unimportant, especially in light of the high number of suspected non-genuine absences. Clearly sickness is as much an issue now as it was ten years ago and this research highlights a need for organisations to get their houses in order and start to properly track and assess absence levels, so that they can accurately ascertain the impact sickness is really having on their business.”

Conversely, nine in ten (90%) agree it is in the best interests of staff that sickness is recorded (compared to 98% ten years ago) and 87% agree tracking sickness is important when evaluating workforce efficiency.  

Only just over half have quite or very high confidence in the accuracy of their absence monitoring system with the public sector having less confidence than the private sector and large organisations less confidence than SMEs. Ten years ago 94% stated their sickness leave records were fairly or very accurate. However, in terms of monitoring sickness, an encouraging 30% monitor it all the time (compared to 21% ten years ago) and a further 43% monitor it either quite or very frequently.

Aaron Ross, managing director, FirstCare, concluded: “The survey indicates that managers believe up to 50% of absences are for non-genuine reasons. This is in stark contrast to the more conservative figure of 13% suggested by the CBI survey. The difference could be explained as only companies with accurate methods of recording absence are able to complete the CBI survey.   

“Either way, organisations must be careful not to become complacent about absence monitoring and underestimate the effect it can have on a business’ productivity and profitability. The value of accurate, real time reports should not be underestimated and are the solid foundation necessary to gain a true picture of the root causes of absence within an organisation.  Without these reports it is not possible to take a proactive approach to managing absence problem areas and it also makes calculating absence associated costs difficult.”





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