Sickness Absence At 'Record Low'

Manufacturing Absenteeism Reaches Record Low


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

Absenteeism in the manufacturing sector has hit a record low, according to the EEF manufacturers association.

According to the organisation, each worker in the UK took an average of 4.9 days off ill each year, equivalent to 2.1 per cent of their overall salaried time.

This is a record low, but is only slightly below figures seen in recent years. The EEF attributes this to changing attitudes in the private sector about short-term absences.

But despite this good news, the EEF survey found that long term absences have increased, with almost 40 per cent of firms indicating they have seen an increase in the number people off for longer periods of time.

This, reports the EEF, is primarily due to increases in stress and mental health illnesses among the UK workforce - with a lack of healthcare funding and increased workloads blamed.

Professor Sayeed Khan, chief medical adviser at EEF, said: "Driving down absence rates, helping more employees return to work earlier and encouraging their wellbeing is critical for our economy.

"But, despite employers increasing investment in managing sickness absence and providing their employees with more health related benefits, the improvement in overall absence rates has more or less now plateaued."

These views were shared by Iain Laws, managing director of employee benefits firm Jelf, who said companies should focus on preventing long-term absences in order to improve profitability and reduce turnover.

The EEF survey also uncovered a distrust among manufacturers about the advice GPs give about work readiness.

Only 16 per cent of those questioned stated the information given on whether an employee is ready to go back to work has improved within the past few years, compared to 45 per cent that thought it had gotten worse.

According to PwC, the annual cost of absenteeism for UK employers currently sits at £29 billion, up by £1.2 billion from 2011.

Expert Opinion
These are interesting findings which highlight how small businesses can benefit from having the right employment processes and policies in place to handle the issue of sickness absence.

"Employers which are sympathetic to the needs and difficulties faced by their workforce often benefit greatly, with recognition of the issues their staff are facing often having a knock-on effect in terms of general motivation and retention.

"We would urge businesses of all sizes to understand the importance of this issue and seek advice on what they can do to improve their current absence management functions. Something as simple as a return-to-work interview for instance can be incredibly useful – allowing employers to recognise potential long-term issues early before they have a significant impact on operations."
Fergal Dowling, Partner