Informa Markets

Author Bio ▼

Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
January 9, 2009

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources

Savings opportunity lost due to haphazard absence management

Organisations are missing out on significant cost-savings because they are struggling to effectively manage their employee absence rates.

This is the conclusion of a pan-European report on employees’ health and benefits by human resources consultancy Mercer, which also finds that health-related benefits are not geared around improving workers’ productivity but more as a way to attract and retain staff.

The study, which surveyed nearly 800 companies across 24 European countries, shows that European employees are absent 7.4 days a year, on average. However, 15 per cent of respondents also report that the average period of absence is 10 days or more a year — an increase from 12 per cent in 2006. The highest absence rates were reported by respondents in Bulgaria, Portugal, Norway and the Czech Republic. At 4.6 days, Turkey recorded the lowest average rate, while the UK also reported a low average rate of 5.5 days.

Almost one in five (19 per cent) of respondents believe that, since 2005, the average number of sick days taken per employee has increased; 12 per cent say it has decreased; while 68 per cent believe there has been no change. However, this varies significantly by country, with 40 per cent of respondents in Romania, 33 per cent in Poland, and 31 per cent in both Spain and France reporting rising absence rates.

For those companies that have a specific absence management programme, the most commonly-used elements are formal absence policies and procedures (56 per cent), sick-pay arrangements (38 per cent), case management and occupational health (37 per cent), and return-to-work interviews (36 per cent). A quarter of employers also provide rehabilitation services as a means of supporting an employee’s return to work.

Steve Clements, principal in Mercer’s health and benefit business, commented: “Many employers offer a broad range of health-related benefits, but their presence is driven by recruitment and retention, and it appears there is only sporadic evidence of integration of these benefits within a broader employee health and wellness or absence management agenda. At a time when cost is under the microscope, employee absence remains under-managed and presents a great opportunity for savings and improved productivity.”

According to Mercer, some employers are hindered from accessing absence information, owing to their state’s privacy laws. But other countries have successfully overcome this obstacle by making the submission of information from employees a voluntary process.

Clements concluded: “Health costs are rising across Europe and yet we know health benefits remain extremely highly valued by employees. For health benefits to deliver employee productivity objectives and remain attractive to employees, companies must have access to good data. They should be more assertive to access the cost drivers of their health benefit plans, as well as productivity drivers, such as absence causes and cost.”

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments