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One in three businesses struggling to deal with sick days

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New research has shown that a third of businesses lack the resources to deal with staff absence, with bosses and employees both taking the strain. In fact, over a quarter of bosses and managers admit they have a real problem coping with staff absence in their workplace.

Of those, 27% of bosses admit they have no sickness absence policy, while 30% suggest they simply don’t have the resource to handle absence.

35% even feel that staff demotivation is a major issue when dealing with staff absence, fearing the knock-on effect of heavier workloads and longer hours.

The results emerged in a study of sickness absence management, commissioned by the mutual healthcare provider benenden health.

The study of 1,000 bosses and 1,000 employees also found that 20% of sick days are disingenuous, with employees admit that they actually could have made it into the office – in fact, the average employee has completely skived off work four times in their working life.

Gill Landon, HR & Development Director at benenden health said:

“In a tough economy, managing sickness absence becomes vital for businesses, but employers are clearly suspicious about days taken off for illness – perhaps not surprising given the varied excuses presented for absence.

“This is not helped by the fact that for more than a fifth of the sick days taken, workers admitted they could have actually made it into work.

“High levels of sickness absence can have a huge negative impact on businesses – both from a financial perspective and on the effect it has on staff who bear the extra workload. This is naturally causing employers to be more alert to spotting staff who are not genuinely ill, using methods such as checking their social media profiles to catch them out if they are lying or rigorously questioning the reasons they give for their absence.

“However, employers should also show caution – we can see from the findings that being stressed or overworked can result in increased numbers of sick days being taken. Employers need to play their part by ensuring that the wellbeing of staff is dealt with through an effective health and wellbeing policy in the workplace.”

The research also surprisingly revealed that 30% of employees have taken time off for stress, citing work as the cause.

Tiredness has caused a further quarter to take sick leave, again because of being overworked.

Sick leave in itself doesn’t help – a third admit that they’re pushed to breaking point when the numbers are down, with there simply not being sufficient staff available to cover.

The research also revealed six in ten bosses trust certain employees a lot more than others when it comes to people calling in sick – one in four will rigorously question those who don’t sound ill enough or who give weak excuses, with factors like the weather being nice or the person seeming fine the day before rousing suspicion.

It also emerged a surprising third of bosses always scour the social media profiles of those they suspect, looking for proof they are ill – or ways to catch them out.

Two thirds of bosses still demand their employees ring them when ill and are adamant that a text or email is not tolerated – and still only believe half of calls are genuine.

Gill Landon added:

“Clearly sickness absence in the workplace, whether through genuine illness or otherwise, does have a significant impact on businesses and so it is important for employers to have a robust procedure for managing absence.

“If an organisation has an effective approach to employee health and wellbeing, this can result in healthier workers who are more productive and who will have lower levels of sickness absence. By adopting a caring approach to their employees’ health and having a proper scheme in place, employers can pro-actively assist in reducing sickness absence in their workplace.”