Small Business Absenteeism Up By A Quarter

Staff Absences At SMEs Have Increased By A Quarter In The Past Year


Fergal Dowling, Partner | +44 (0)121 214 5476

The number of days off taken by staff members at small businesses has increased by a quarter in the last year.

Figures from the latest Close Brothers Business Barometer show that companies across the UK are facing personnel issues caused by workers taking time off for minor illnesses such as flu.

However, post-operative recovery was also noted as a key contributor to high rates of absenteeism, something that looks set to rise as the average age of workers in the UK rises with increasing life expectancy.

This problem is worse in the manufacturing sector, where over a third of companies have specifically told Close Brothers they are facing staffing problems because of people taking more days off than would normally be expected.

Steve Gee, a director at Close Brothers Asset Finance, noted that the vast majority of sick leave taken across the UK is genuine and isn't caused by laziness or neglect.

However, Mr Gee added: "Between the cold, dark mornings and the allegedly most depressing day of the year, 'Blue Monday' approaching, it's easy to understand the appeal of an unauthorised duvet day.

"It's a good idea to reconsider your current absence policy; one option might be to allow employees additional flexibility to book leave at short notice."

Blue Monday is a date, which changes every year, but is generally the Monday closest to the middle of January and has been labelled as the most depressing day of the year by social scientists.

Close Brother's survey also revealed the government's fit note system, which aimed to reduce the cost of absenteeism, was not as effective as many business leaders first thought.

Some 17 per cent of those who answered the asset finance firm's survey said the scheme has not lived up to their expectations and has done little to help their company reduce the cost of sick days - although there was praise for the system from some participants.

Expert Opinion
One of the inevitable parts of developing and growing a small business is an expanding workforce, which brings with it the need for steps to be taken to ensure the right policies are in place in relation to the issue of sickness absence.

"Having robust policies in place is vital and small businesses should also think carefully about the tools and tactics they can use to address the issue of absence, from offering in-house counselling services to other options such as return to work interviews.

"The latter in particularly can be very useful in offering employers the chance to ask important questions about an employee’s health, with the ultimate aim of addressing potential issues early on and preventing further problems in the future.

"Getting employment policies right is not easy and that is why it is so important for employers to ensure they have access to important advice and support for legal specialists on such matters."
Fergal Dowling, Partner