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The average level of employee absence has fallen compared with last year from 7.7 days to 6.8 per employee per year, according to this year’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)/Simplyhealth Absence Management survey.
However, the fall in absence levels coincides with almost a third of employers reporting an increase in the number of people going into work ill. The threat of redundancies and concerns over job security are shown to contribute to such ‘presenteeism’, with organisations that are expecting to make redundancies in the next six months more likely to report an increase in employees going into work when unwell, than employers that are not expecting to cut jobs.
Decreases in absence levels are most stark in public sector services, falling to their lowest level in ten years, with a figure of 7.9 days per employee per year. This compares to 5.7 days for workers in the private services industry, where absence levels have also fallen since 2011.
Stress-related absence also appears to be on the increase, with two-fifths of employers (40%) reporting a rise over the past year and only one in ten (10%) reporting that the problem had decreased.
“On the face of it, the findings from this year’s survey present some positive news. But we must air caution before celebrating lower absence levels because they may be masking deeper problems in the workplace,” said Dr Jill Miller, Research Adviser at CIPD. “This year sees a continued increase in presenteeism which can have a damaging effect on organisations’ productivity. Not only can illnesses be passed on to other colleagues, but ill employees are likely to work less effectively than usual, may be more prone to making costly mistakes and take longer to recover from their illnesses.”
“We urge employers to examine whether lower absence levels within their own organisations are as a result of more effective absence management or if they reflect the negative impact of presenteeism,” she added. “Overall a proactive approach to supporting employee wellbeing and managing absence, which includes training managers in how to manage people effectively and early access to occupational health services, remains critical for success.”