Sickness absence rates soar in the last year

sickness absence

Recent research has found that sickness absence rates are at the highest level in a decade. Nearly 150 million working days were lost in 2021 due to ill health. Four in ten employers believe that this figure is too high.

Sickness absence plummeted in 2020

In 2020 during the pandemic, sickness absence plummeted to 2.2% – a 15-year low. This was likely due to the increase in homeworking, shielding and furlough which mitigated the spread of sickness. Since lifting restrictions, sickness absence increased to 3.1% in 2021. This rate means that on average, an employee is off sick for 7.3 days a year. This costs a business £781 per employee annually in sick pay and loss of productivity.    

Managing absence effectively involves striking a balance between supporting employees with health problems and ensuring that the business’s productivity and objectives are not compromised by repeated absence. Some sickness absence is inevitable in any company. Therefore, having the correct policies and procedures in place for managing sickness absence is essential.

Dangers of high sickness absence

Financial costs

As mentioned previously, on average sickness absence of one employee is costing a business £781 a year. This is something employers should not ignore as this added cost, on top of the current cost of living crisis may significantly impact your business. Managing your sickness absence is a sensible and easy way to reduce costs.

Reduced productivity

Staff shortages mean reduced productivity for the organisation. This means that the organisation will not be able to perform at its best which could cost you financially and impact your customers/clients’ experience.

The strain of being understaffed

Being understaffed puts increased pressure on employees who are at work. This can impact their well-being. Overworked and burnt-out employees may then phone in sick, which can be a repetitive cycle you do not want your organisation to get into.

Monitoring sickness absence

  • Two-thirds of companies struggle to collect data on their absence rates.
  • Only 54 out of 149 organisations in a survey could provide data on the cost of absence within their company.
  • Failing to measure and monitor your absence rates will put your business at risk.

Why measure and monitor sickness absence?

Measuring and monitoring absence effectively helps to reduce absence rates. Without collecting data on absences, employers will remain in the dark about the reason why an employee was off sick and any issues that they are having. As a result, employers may not know if an absence is related to a long-term illness or a mental health problem. By collecting data, employers will know the reason and may be able to put support in place to reduce the risk of employees calling in sick in the future.

Companies should conduct return-to-work meetings with the employee when they return to work. This is to help uncover if any support is needed to return to work. Also, if there are any changes that they can implement to reduce the risk of absence again.

How can oneHR help?

If companies want to address their high sickness absence, they first must understand their absence data. Using oneHR, the absence manager tool can relieve your HR headaches and provide you with the ability to record staff absences quickly and simply. You can view employee absences at the click of a button, making it simple and easy to manage employee absence.

oneHR features

  • A powerful absence reporting tool and built-in absence triggers that provide key insight into trends and patterns within your business, allowing you to manage and mitigate absence issues before they have even had a chance to escalate or impact your bottom line.
  • A streamlined and effective tool for managing absence – starting with the initial call to report a sickness through to the employee’s return to a work meeting.
  • Capture and customise a number of absence types.
  • Accessible on laptop, smartphone or tablet, meaning you have the ability to access leave and absence on the go.

If you would like to learn more about how oneHR can help you to manage sickness absence within your company and reduce related costs, please contact our team here.


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