Employers focus on flexible working to manage absence rates

News   •   Jan 18, 2016 16:09 GMT

Blue Monday is considered by some to be the day when employers should brace themselves for the possibility of increased absences as staff struggle with low morale and motivation following the Christmas break.

While a quarter (25%) of UK employers have seen their absence rates improve over the last 12 months, one in 10 have seen their rates worsen over the same time period according to new research from Group Risk Development (GRiD).

Of course it is not just on Blue Monday that organizations should be prepared to manage staff absences, but every day. There are many reasons why staff could be absent with illness being one of them. The Business Continuity Institute’s latest Horizon Scan Report highlighted that Human Illness was a major threat to organizations with 42% of business continuity professionals expressing concern about the prospect of this threat materialising. It is therefore essential that organizations have succession plans in place, so important work does not get missed during someone’s absence.

According to the study by GRiD, 57% of businesses said absence cost them up to 4% of payroll, but employers are using a range of initiatives to address this, and to improve general attendance. This includes introducing flexible working initiatives (36%), a 4 percentage points increase on last year, allowing employees to work around schedules which suit them. By introducing flexible working, it also enables organizations to become more adaptable to other crises that may arise.

It is estimated that long-term sickness absence costs private sector businesses in the UK a total of £4.17 billion a year, and is set to reach £4.81 billion a year by 2030. This makes it all the more important that employers work with staff to manage their return to work, maintain morale and invest in their wellbeing.

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for Group Risk Development, said: “It’s important that strategies to manage absence are kept up, and that rates aren’t allowed to increase as it really will have a significant impact on business costs in the long-run. That said, it can’t be denied that a quarter have seen rates improve – whether or not this is down on last year – and employers are actively introducing initiatives that focus on the health and wellness of their staff. Flexible working can help to retain talented staff, allowing them to balance home commitments as well as focus on work.