Employers gained on average one extra day of work per employee in 2009 due to lower absence levels with more than four in 10 staff refusing to take a single day off sick during the year.
According to a new sickness absence study from the manufacturers' organisation EEF, sickness absence appears to be on a downward trend among UK workers.
The study shows that from 2007 to 2009 there has been a steady fall in sickness absence, with the average employee taking 5.6 days sickness in 2009 compare to 6.8 days in 2007 – a gain for employers of on average one extra day of work per employee during 2009.
According to the report, 41% of companies saw a decrease in short-term sickness absence in 2009, a climb of 9% from 2008, while nearly a third (32%) of companies saw a decrease in long-term sickness absence over the past two years, up from 26% the year before. On average, 44% of employees did not take a single day off work sick during 2009, continuing an improving trend since 2007; and this despite the swine flu pandemic.
EEF and survey partner Unum said they believed the reduction in employee sickness absence may be linked to the global recession and the pace of economic recovery in the UK.
Professor Sayeed Khan, EEF chief medical adviser says: "The clear decline in absence levels could be a consequence of the recession and relatively slow recovery of the UK economy. Another possibility is that the recession, with its accompanying redundancies, has made employees more aware of the time they are taking off."
The research reveals the top causes of short-term sickness absence as: 'minor illness', 'back pain and other joint / muscular problems; the same as for the past three years.
For cases of long-term sickness absence, the main causes are surgery or medical investigations and tests, back problems, cancer and mental ill health, excluding stress; the same as for the past three years
The report highlights a significant decrease in stress as a cause of long-term sickness absence, which the authors state may be a reflection that EEF member organisations are gradually tackling stress related to work or that employees would rather have another diagnosis than 'stress'.
50% of companies reported a decrease in short-term sickness absence if the managers were trained, compared to 36% reporting a decrease when no training had taken place.
Consistently, employers reporting barriers to rehabilitation have an overall sickness absence rate that is 0.6% higher than those with no barriers. This is 1.3 days per employee and equates to about 3.25 million lost days across manufacturing in GB [or about £350 million cost to employers, based on £13.94 hourly cost]
Author: Ken Hurst