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Workplace Absence

Workplace Absence

New research carried out by the Centre of Economic and Business Research commissioned by workplace absence management specialists, FirstCare is part of a wider report, Change at Work: How Absence, Attitudes and Demographics are impacting UK employers. They’ve found some interesting trends:

Workplace absence had been increasing year on year since 2011, having previously been on a downward trend since 1993. It’s estimate that by 2020, that the cost of absence will increase to £21bn. That’s quite some information to digest! So what’s changed?

First and foremost, the increase in mental health issues have increased by over 71% since 2011. The report shows that mental health issues effect 30-40 year olds who have to deal with the balance of home life, financial constraints and pressures from their careers. As a nation we are gradually changing our archaic views on mental illnesses (along with other “invisible illnesses”). For a long time, and even now, suffering with a mental health disorder was not something that was discussed or seen as a “real” illness. Thankfully this is changing with greater support and treatment becoming more widely available for those requiring it. This also means that when people mentally do not feel that they are stable enough to be going into work, they quite rightly aren’t. Long term – this is great, because it means that they can take time away to get the help and treatment they require so that they can return back to their working environment in the right frame of mind. Short term -  statistics like the above can appear quite shocking.

Our ever aging population and the abolishment of the retirement age mean that our workforce are getting older year on year. Musculoskeletal issues predominantly effect 50-60 year olds, who require time off to recover from surgery or injury. As discussed in previous blogs, an ageing workforce is great, we are holding on to the skills and experience for longer, where as before we would have lost that wealth of information and skillset, but that said, our ageing workforce is a huge contributor to our increase in workplace absenteeism.

The attitudes of Millenials towards work – it’s been long stereotyped that this age group have a different attitude to work – playing a bigger emphasis on their freedom and independence than their loyalty and job security. FirstCare’s data shows a 13% increase in new employees leaving their position after just one year – something that was always discouraged when I first entered the working world – stay put in a position, and it shows loyalty and determination.

The results of these findings reveal what a serious issue absenteeism is in the UK, and being on the increase, what can we do to change this? As employees, I think we need to differentiate the difference between needing a day off for genuine illness and not, and be aware of the impact that one day of being absent has on the business as a whole. A change in attitude is required from both perspectives, and it’s finding the balance – working while you are genuinely ill can be just as bad for a business as taking a days sick when not required.

From the perspective of the employer, having a greater understanding of the demographic of our workforce and some of the pressure points causing absenteeism means we are better placed to start tackling some of the route causes. Not allowing your employees to feel that their working life is a contributing factor to their decline in mental health – not allowing employers to carry out physical tasks beyond their capabilities. Employers need to talk to their staff – to understand what is happening on the ground. Looking at statistics and spreadsheets is great, but talking to the people behind the numbers is even better.


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