Better employee management needed to combat sickness absence, says PwC

Tuesday 16 July 2013


Businesses have been urged to look for new ways of improving employee health, morale and motivation, following the publication of a new report on absenteeism in the UK.

Research conducted by corporate giant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) reveals sick days are costing UK companies a combined £29 billion per year, as British workers take off twice as many days as their US counterparts.

The study revealed that Brits spend an average of 9.1 days per year off work due to illness, compared to 7.3 in Western Europe, 4.9 in the US and a mere 2.2 in Asia-Pacific.

PwC found that sickness accounts for around 90 per cent of UK companies’ absence bill, which also covers compassionate leave and industrial action.

Jon Andrews, human resources consulting leader at PwC, commented that absence is "still a significant drain on British businesses".

"At a time when companies are striving for growth it is vital they address this cost by looking for ways to improve employees’ health, morale and motivation," he claimed.

"Allowing greater workplace flexibility could go a long way to helping break the sickness cycle."

Mr Andrews added that forward-looking companies will invest in health and wellbeing services to tackle the issue before absence starts to hit their bottom lines.

"This is particularly relevant for start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses, where the cost of absence can be particularly crippling," he noted.

"With the demographics of the workforce rapidly changing as many people are now having to work far longer before they retire, companies are likely to see a greater level of sickness if they don’t start addressing this issue now."

Mr Andrews said UK companies are still "far behind their global counterparts" in minimising the impact of sick days on their businesses.

He suggested that the "stark variation" in absence levels among different sectors and across Western Europe suggests employee engagement, workplace environment and culture can have "a huge influence" on the number of sick days employees take.

"Technology companies often lead the way in terms of innovation and this is likely to feed down into all aspects of their business, including how they motivate and engage staff and the level of workplace flexibility," Mr Andrews stated.

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Posted by Sarah Parish