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Absence management: the facts and figures

The latest CIPD Absence Management Report was published in October. The key findings were that:

  • The average level of absence is 7.6 days per employee per year, back up to the levels found in 2010 and 2011.
  • Average absence levels are highest in the public services sector (8.7 days) and lowest in the manufacturing and production sector (6 days). Absence levels also tend to increase with organisation size, regardless of sector. Manual workers had 1.4 more days’ absence on average than non-manual workers.
  • Overall, two-thirds of working time lost to absence is accounted for by short-term absences of up to 7 days. A fifth is attributed to long-term absences (4 weeks or more).
  • The annual median cost of absence per employee was £595, a similar figure to last year.
  • Minor illnesses (such as colds, flu, stomach upsets, headaches and migraines) are by far the most common cause of short-term absence, followed by musculoskeletal injuries, back pain and stress. Stress is a more common cause of absence for non-manual workers.
  • The most common causes of long-term absence are acute medical conditions, stress, mental ill-health and musculoskeletal injuries.
  • Two-fifths of respondents report that stress-related absence has increased over the past year for the workforce as a whole, while one-fifth report it has increased for managers and one in eight that it has increased for senior managers. Workload was ranked the most common cause of stress followed by management style, organisational change/restructuring and non-work relationships/family issues.
  • Nearly two-fifths of employers report they have increased their focus on stress management over the past 12 months. Popular methods to identify and reduce workplace stress include staff surveys, risk assessments/stress audits, flexible working options/improved work–life balance and employee assistance programmes. Just under three-quarters of those who take steps to address stress offer some sort of stress management training.
  • Almost all organisations surveyed (94%) have a written absence/attendance management policy.

Guidance on absence management and a style Sickness and Absence Management Policy are available to members of our online portal, BResourceFull. If you are not already a member, please click here to apply to join.

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