Employee absence rates on the increase

employee absence

Employers lose a median 2.9 per cent of their working time to employee absence, a new report reveals.

This equates to 6.6 days per employee, and represents an increase on the figures for previous years. The findings are based on absence for the 2016 calendar year.

The survey highlights the difference in absence rates between different sectors of the economy. Within the public sector, a median 4 per cent of working time is lost to absence, equivalent to 9.1 days per employees. This compares with 2.6 per cent of time in the private sector, or around 6 days per employee.

We also see absence rates increase with organisation size. While the smallest organisations (those with less than 100 employees) lose just 1.8 per cent of working time, or 4 days per employee, absence within organisations with 1,000 or more employees accounts for 3.8 per cent of working time, or 8.8 days per employee.

While these figures represent a slight increase on the data for the 2015 calendar year (when 2.6 per cent of working time, or 5.8 days per employee, was recorded), they remain comfortably lower than when XpertHR started collecting data more than a decade ago. Back in 2006, a median 3.5 per cent of working time was lost to absence, equivalent to 8 days per employee.

There are a number of factors that can influence absence rates. Increased interest in HR metrics at an organisation level is likely to result in better recording of absence among the workforce – with the potential for their rates to increase as a result. For an employee perspective, higher engagement levels are likely to result in less time off for absence.

Cost of absence

Providing cover for absent employees represents a significant cost for employers, who estimate the cost to be £455 per employee per year. However, many employers focus on the cost of paying sick pay for absent employees and fail to quantify factors such as the cost of cover, reduced performance or service, or missed business opportunities, which are likely to make the ultimate cost significantly higher.

XpertHR Managing Editor for Pay and HR Practice, Sheila Attwood said: “High levels of employee sickness absence represent a significant financial cost to the business, and can have an impact on its operations and the wellbeing of those having to cover for absent colleagues. Employers should use the data they collect on absence rates to be proactive in effectively managing absence in their organisation.”