By Marc Clavereau

UK Absenteeism: How much does it cost?

According to Katja Hall, Director of Employment Policy at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), employee absence cost the UK economy nearly £17bn in 2009, that equates to 27 million working days lost due to ‘sickies’. The average direct cost of absence was £596 per employee. Absence cost varies considerably by sector, with direct costs in the public sector 50% higher on average.

Loss of productivity is the most significant cost of absence, followed by the cost of sick pay itself and the cost of staff to cover for those who are absent. Projected across the whole economy, by adding all these indirect costs, this would bring total cost of absence to the UK economy in 2009 to £29.9bn.

In this context, two thirds of employers believe that a great many absences for illness are not valid. With cost being a significant consequence of absence, it is often difficult to manage this issue and retain employee acceptance. This often leaves employers unable to resolve the ongoing losses for fear of losing their staff support.

Absence management policies: What works?
Instead of castigating employees due to their absence, some employers prefer to characterise these absences by focussing on understanding the fundamental reasons behind absences and as a result empowering their employees. This approach has been highlighted in the recent CBI report, with illness being one of the leading causes of absence, in particular in times of recession where unemployment is significant.

According to UK Medical Director of Pfizer Limited and associate in the CBI survey, Dr. Berkeley Phillips, the report unites causes and consequences of absence together with an examination of proactive management strategies, which is more important than ever.

There are many available solutions to help reduce absenteeism and implement a proactive approach to the management of attendance, the improvement of working conditions and ongoing contact with absent employees. Instead of punishing employees that are prone to absence, many companies have already implemented tools for management of attendance and absences. The Bradford factor is one example and is useful as a method of analysing absences patterns and producing a simple score, according to their estimated impact on an organisation.

This approach is beneficial to the vast majority of employees who want to be appreciated in their work and feel as though their health is important to their employers in order to do their best and be productive. With this in mind, solutions to manage attendance should enable both the employee and the employer/manager to take responsibility and be made aware of their absence trends before they become a problem to the organisation.

Absence management policies: Who can do it?
Absence management policies should involve both managers and employees; irrespective of the type or size of organisation. There is a wide variety of products, tools and management methods available, which can be applied to the process of career progression and the associated labour legislation. Companies that do this are far more efficient at managing absences, resulting in improved performance and profitability.

The recession and high unemployment has had a huge impact on the way businesses tackle absenteeism. Unemployment is currently at 8% in the UK and it is important for businesses to look at solutions that can address a number of issues efficiently. Time and attendance solutions not only allow employers to monitor their staff productivity they also allow HR teams to work far more efficiently by focusing on important tasks rather than worrying about monitoring absence in the work place. In turn employees that may be prone to ‘sickies’ will find it less appealing to be absent from work and notice the benefits of focusing on a good time and attendance record.

Flexible working and annualised time management are two essential methods for increasing productivity and performance in the work place. Absence management tools are also very successful tools for enterprises of all sizes.

These issues are the responsibility of Human Resources and depending on the size of the enterprise will also be supported by other key personnel (Payroll / Production Managers, other Directors).

Time, attendance and absence management solutions: Which is the most cost effective?
Absence management is really possible if a company is already managing time and offering flexible working times, Bodet has developed a range of solutions specifically for enterprises of 50-5000 employees; Kelio PrimaR2 and Kelio IntegralR2.

"Our products not only cater for SME’s needs; they are also relevant for larger enterprises. Marc Clavereau, Managing Director of Bodet Limited, insists: "With our 25 years of experience in Time recording, Time and Attendance and Staff Scheduling, we have been able to grow and develop solutions to the needs of enterprises, providing an integrated approach to HR, Payroll, Time and Attendance, Scheduling and Reporting needs".

Bodet offers a scalable and flexible solution that grows as the number of employees increase. The software manages all types of daily, weekly and periodic working patterns, fixed, part-time, on-demand, rotating shifts, flexitime or committed and annualised contracts. All holiday and absence types are fully customisable within the system (along with entitlements, balance management, accruals, etc.).

Kelio computes the Bradford Factor automatically for every employee. It presents the results in management reports and provides a quick and easy way to identify those employees whose absenteeism trends require action.

All Time, Attendance and Absence Management tools should offer automated business processes focusing on HR services in Human Capital Management and, as with Kelio solutions, managers and employees will have the tools to manage their own absence as they do attendance.