United Kingdom

Staff absence and productivity levels

November 2014


Growing numbers of UK employers are recognising the cost staff absence is having on their business, a UK health insurer has said, whilst a recent Aon survey has found that employers want to better understand staff health risks in order to reduce these costs as well as improving business performance.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Fiona Adshead, director of public wellbeing and health at Bupa said businesses were suffering from a loss of productivity overall, not just from absenteeism, but from employees coming to work despite illness and being unable to work to the same standards as before.

“Health doesn’t happen in a doctor’s surgery; it happens in people’s everyday lives – and the workplace is a big part of that,” Adshead commented.

In addition, the annual Aon Benefits and Trends Survey which revealed that employers are wanting to improve understanding around employee health risks, showed that 75 per cent of businesses have not yet identified known health risks but 50 per cent have said they want to better understand the impact.

“We know that three major health risks – mental health, musculoskeletal and cancer - are enormous problems for organisations, let alone the individuals who experience them,” said Stephen Hackett, head of health and risk at Aon Employee Benefits. “Serious illness can hit an employer hard, potentially impacting recruitment, retention, productivity, motivation, health programmes and, of course, rising insurance costs.”

Over 130million working days were lost to staff absence in the UK last year and a recent CIPD survey found that two-fifths of companies reported increased levels of stress-related absence.

Although latest CIPD figures show that staff absence has fallen on average from 7.6 days lost per employee in 2013 to 6.6 days, experts fear this may be due to staff continuing to work through their illness which may prolong or worsen ill health.

Hackett added: “HR has access to powerful data which can help identify and manage risks, so effective strategies can be put in place. Combining knowledge across healthcare and risk also enables businesses to control costs and ensure value-added benefits are not duplicated. Healthcare and risk insurances, as well as health management services such as occupational health, help employees and employers to manage health risks as efficiently as possible.”



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