Sickness Absence – Really?

Several recent reports are enough to send shivers down the spine of employers during the cold winter months and need to be taken into consideration when agencies produce their annual absence statistics so that we know the real reasons behind the figures. They relate to alcohol induced absence and employees taking advantage of bad weather.

A survey by Aon of over 4,000 respondents shows that 1 in 10 has admitted to taking a ‘sickie’ or being hungover as the real reason for their last day off.  That’s 10% of absence which if extrapolated to the annual figures, shows that alcohol related absence is a massive cost to employers and the wider economy.

This is backed up by a report from Aviva which shows that last year 2.31 million workers called in sick after drinking too much or having an accident at a work Christmas party. Whilst it is slightly amusing to read that the top cause of injury is falling over while dancing, maybe as a Nation, we don’t take the issue of alcohol induced absence seriously enough.

If someone books a days holiday to recover from over indulgence then fair enough, what they do in their own time is up to them.  But I don’t think that anyone has really assessed the true cost to the economy of uncatered for alcohol induced absence.  I believe it to be a significant but complex and difficult issue to address which is met with collective denial and avoidance.  

To make matters worse over the winter, First Care have reported an increase in employees phoning in sick ahead of the predicted snow falls. Now whilst self diagnosis is becoming more popular, anyone who can predict they will suffer from an illness sometime in the future has a remarkable ability. Or put another way, a real lack of commitment to their employer.

When I’ve spoken about non-genuine absence in the past, I’ve had some people state categorically that it is not really an issue. Well, here’s some more evidence to support my theory that the proportion of sickness absence that is due to real illness and injury is not as high as sometimes promoted.  I’m all for more stringent reporting and analysis. If you don’t assess and measure something, it is very difficult to manage it.

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