Is National Sickie Day more worrying than people think?

In recent years the first Monday in February has been dubbed ‘National Sickie Day’ due to the high amount of employees in England taking a day off work due to sickness. Several of the reasons that this day shows a higher absence rate include it being the Monday after the first pay date of the year, which some people have waited 6 weeks for, alongside being the first Monday after many people have finished ‘Dry January’.

This year the day after the Super Bowl has been estimated to cost the UK economy around £45 million in lost hours, wages and overtime, according to the Employment Law Experts (ELAS), with over 350,000 people estimated to be calling in sick today.

With the average number of days lost to sickness per employee being 6.3 (CIPD Absence Management Survey) have you considered the impact of sickness absence on your business?

Whilst we can have a little laugh as we read many an article highlighting the hilarious and sometimes downright farcical reasons that employees give for calling in sick, should ‘National Sickie Day’ be warning us about more important issues?

Dr Jill Miller, Research Adviser at the CIPD, says:

“Yes, some statistics suggest that the beginning of February sees an upsurge in employees downing tools in favour of duvets and TV, but many might be hiding much more significant issues”

With that in mind here are 3 Things to consider when managing absence in your organisation:

Presenteeism can be worse than absence

Whilst as a business leader you feel the drop in productivity when your staff are absent due to sickness, it is important to ensure there is a balance between those taking advantage of a company’s sickness absence policy and those who attend work when ill.

Not only do those with any form of bug risk infecting others in the building, attending work whilst ill will prolong the recovery period and can have longer lasting impacts on productivity and performance.

Creating an open environment

It’s important to ensure that staff feel comfortable taking time off when they are genuinely unwell, and that there is support within the business to deal with sensitive situations when they arise. Your policies and paperwork may state that staff must confirm their true reason for absence when calling in sick however do you r staff feel comfortable telling you the real reason behind their absence?

I have seen countless times employees claiming they are Flu when calling in to report sickness but giving a different, sometimes more sensitive reason, when they have a return to work conversation with their line manager.

Creating an open environment, in which there is support for all staff with issues, will create trust and can lead to more flexible options for managing staff with sickness issues that suit both the individual and the business more than just being signed off sick for prolonged periods of time.

Is sickness absence used to cover other commitments?

There is a correlation between sickness absence and the ability for employees to work flexibly, as well as those in that open and trusting environment. If your organisation has clear processes and support for those who need support in other forms – such as when home or family circumstances prevent them from being able to attend work, non-genuine absence rates could well be reduced.

There are around 7 million people in the UK caring for a relative, including up to 1.5 million people caring for someone with mental ill health, which means that on average one in eight employees if a carer. With the ageing population and the increase in recognition of mental health issues, and one in five carers giving up employment to be able to continue the care ( , it is imperative that businesses have support in place for their staff who are also carers.

So whilst we have a little chuckle at absence reasons such as “The Dog ate my shoes” and “I missed my bus” on the first Monday in February, maybe tomorrow have a think about how sickness absence impacts on your business.

Has sickness absence impacted your business? Join the discussion below!

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