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How do I count the costs of absenteeism?

How do I count the costs of absenteeism?

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With so many other things to think about when running a business, absenteeism ought to be the least of any organisation’s problems. Yet once all costs are taken into consideration, non attendance can cost as much as £1,000 per employee every year.

One person taking one day off might not seem like a big issue, but when you sum up the decrease in productivity with the increased strain on other areas of the business, it’s not something that should be taken lightly.

What if you need to hire in a temp to pick up the workload? What if someone who is covering the work needs to be paid overtime? What if their absence means a proposal doesn’t get in on time resulting in a lost contract?

There are obviously some absences that will occur more often that others and many of these can’t be helped. Viruses and musculo-skeletal injuries are amongst the most common, along with stress and depression.

Obviously a flu ridden employee coming into the workplace has the potential to infect their colleagues causing more people to be off sick. You shouldn’t make people feel guilty about taking days off when needed and it shouldn’t be put as a mark against them when promotion time comes around. That is unless they are seen to be flouting the rules.

The same could also be said for depression. The members of your team feed off the enthusiasm of others and if there is one person acting like a black cloud over the company then it may have an affect on others.

These things don’t just go away and it’s important you are able to differentiate between absenteeism that can be cured with a bowl of chicken soup, and that which may require a more professional resolution.

  • For cases of longer term illness or injury the focus must be to collaborate with health practitioners to set expectations about what the employee can do and timelines for return to work.
  • For cases of recurring short-term absences, you should look to regularly survey employees about their work experience and attitude towards their work and career. Link this to strategies for improving engagement, so that the employee wants to be at work and chooses to be at work.
  • For cases of 'lifestyle absenting' (choosing to be absent so they can do things other than work), you need to look at your management strategy to help an employees re-think some of their assumptions and re-value the benefits of working for your company. If you can prove this, one of the steps to take is dismissal.

If you wish to assess the effects of absenteeism so they can be addressed, it’s important to find an effective method of recording it. Implementing a health management programme is a step that all businesses should take and it should cover everything from properly recording sick days through to providing eye care for employees who spend a lot of time staring at a computer screen.

You may actually find your absence rates increase once you have put a health management programme in place. This will highlight how much absenteeism was going unrecorded before you put the proper procedures in place and the longer you run with the programme, the more benefits you will see in terms of productivity, and attendance.

Discuss this issue on The Employer Forum.