Fifth of employers do not record sickness absence

76% of organisations measure sickness absence levels

Sickness absence recording by employers hit its lowest level in three years in January 2023 (80%), according to research by industry body Group Risk Development (Grid).

The research, which was undertaken in January 2023 among 503 HR decision-makers and 1,212 employees in UK organisations, also found that while a fifth (20%) of employers did not record sickness absence, twice that amount (41%) did not record the impact of sickness absence. Both the recording of sickness incidences and impacts dropped compared with the past three years.

In 2022, 85% recorded sickness absence and 63% measured its impact, compared with 84% and 63% in 2021, and 85% and 65% in 2020, respectively.

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According to Grid, this year’s change may be due to the rise of hybrid working, making it increasingly difficult for employers to record this data; as absence has become less visible. This may have led some employers to stop collating the figures.

Among respondents that did document the impact of staff sickness, most recorded the number of lost hours or days (46%), followed by the cost of lost productivity (39%), indirect costs, such as other employees covering work, as well as learning and management time (38%), the cost of sick pay provision (37%), the impact of presenteeism and leavism (30%), and temporary workers and agency fees (29%).

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for Grid, said: “It’s important that employers understand that measuring sickness absence is not a draconian measure with which to hold employees to account, it’s about spotting patterns in the employee population as a whole. When reasons for absence are understood, it’s possible to implement an employee benefits framework that offers effective support. Putting the case to expand or change the support becomes more challenging without being able to quantify absences and the impact they are having.

“By recording the impact of sickness absence, employers will be in an informed position to make decisions about which individual employees or which groups of employees need support. The earlier this intervention is triggered, the more chance of success it has.

“Absence management is best tackled when employers have a good handle on their data and workplace issues such as stress or long hours can be managed when this is discussed at regular intervals with their adviser and insurer. There’s a great deal of support embedded into employee benefits, and advisers and insurers will be best-placed to advise how that support can be applied to support employees before they go off sick and to increase successful returns to work.”