UK workers are most likely to take a sick day – managers need to change that

04 February 2019 -

Sickness at workThere are specific ways managers can prevent absenteeism say experts

CMI Insights

According to national statistics the first Monday in February is the most popular day of the year to ‘pull a sickie’: last year, 350,000 UK employees called in sick on this day. It’s said that the cold weather and an overindulgent payday weekend are just two of the reasons that employees choose to miss work.

UK WORKERS ARE MOST LIKELY TO PULL A SICKIE

One in four UK employees (27%) believe it is acceptable to “pull a sickie” at work, according to a survey by Automatic Data Processing (ADP), with 85% of those saying it’s reasonable to do so two or more times a year. This has a significant effect on productivity – absenteeism is said to cost the UK economy £18bn per year – so it’s important that managers try to reverse the trend.

WORKPLACE ABSENCE REFLECTS STAFF UNHAPPINESS

Jeff Phipps, managing director of ADP UK, says staff unhappiness is a cause: the survey showed 40% of employees don’t look forward to going to work. He explains: “Leaders should work to provide quality jobs that stimulate people and give them meaning, so they feel more invested in their roles. This will not only shift attitudes towards sick days, but also improve overall employee retention.”

IS FLEXIBLE WORKING THE ANSWER TO ABSENTEEISM?

Previous CMI research has shown that managers experience long hours and high stress levels in their roles which could contribute to low morale, as well as more serious health consequences: the average boss puts in 7.5 hours overtime per week. For this reason, Christine Pratt FCMI – founder of HR & Diversity Management – recommends that employers offer flexible working and focus less on physical attendance.

Read more: Is your organisation ‘happy to talk flexible working?’

“I would like to see the introduction of a national flexi-working anniversary to encourage employees to consider how they might be equally productive from the comfort of their homes on occasions where bad weather or other circumstances prevents them from travelling to the office,” says Pratt.

She adds that managers must act now to prevent sickies. “With external factors such as Brexit, absence statistics are likely to increase further. We need to change the culture now.”

At insurance firm Hiscox – a member of the CMI/Glassdoor top 20 – managers are told to lead by example to boost commitment. “We expect our managers and leaders to keep their word, lead with integrity and demonstrate our values,” says Amanda Brown, group HR director. However, she adds that employers must trust their staff to behave responsibly and take sick days appropriately.

“At Hiscox, people are treated like adults and are trusted to get on with the job from day one. This can come as a surprise if you’ve been used to a more hands-on management style, but we find that people love having the freedom to get on without having their hand held.”

Image: Shutterstock

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