How to reduce the impact of ‘sickies’ in your business

Do you know how many of your staff have taken ‘a sickie’ recently?

Richard Shinton

Apr 24th 2018

How to reduce the impact of ‘sickies’ in your business

Do you know how many of your staff have taken ‘a sickie’ recently? More importantly, do you understand the reasons behind them doing so?

A recent study, by Citation, found that 40% of employees pulled ‘a sickie’ in the last year and 86% say they have never been caught out when they have done so.

When you consider the costs associated with an employee’s absence – which ranges from an average of £522 per day in the private sector to £835 in the public sector, according to the CIPD – it’s understandable that these instances can be frustrating.

Perhaps more importantly though, higher rates of sickies within your organisation can be an indication that there is a bigger issue at hand which will be even more costly if left unresolved.

So how can you reduce the number of workers that take these unjustified sick days and proactively identify the types of behaviour that could impact your business?

Reduce the stress factor

The Citation study reveals there are steps we could be taking, especially when it comes to reducing stress levels.

Stress was the top reason (41%) why people said they take sickies. More than one in ten (11%) also said they did it because they simply ‘couldn’t face their manager’ and one in 20 said it was because they were ‘being bullied’.

Sickies may indicate that workers require support and we need to stay alert to these signs – especially when there may be factors involved which could contribute towards mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Failing to pick-up on these indicators early may leave organisations with a more serious problem further down the line, especially as mental health is now the number one reason for genuine absences. An NHS report revealed last year that one in three sick notes handed out to patients were for issues related to mental health.

Spot the warning signs

If your organisation has the ability to closely monitor and analyse absence data, you can start to pick up on the tell-tale signs of stress-related sick leave relatively early on.

By spotting these signs, HR and departmental managers can review the situation and decide whether a conversation with the employee is necessary – during which they could offer to help address any problems they may be facing. In the case of lateness, it may be as simple as changing someone’s working hours to accommodate childcare issues, for example.

It may be that managers can look at the workload of the individual, or whether additional training is required. For the one in 20 taking sickies due to bullying, there may be a complex, difficult situation that needs handling carefully. But it shouldn’t be ignored, and it’s certainly better to know about it than not.  

Be proactive

There is no doubt that if you found out staff were taking sickies for the wrong reasons it would be disappointing. But unearthing the real reasons behind the absences, rather than getting annoyed, can help you tackle the problem before this behaviour becomes pervasive within a department or across the wider company.

With 86% of people claiming to have never been caught out taking a sickie, we need to acknowledge that this behaviour can be hard to spot. This is where the ability to analyse time and attendance data comes into its own, however. It helps us to identify patterns of behaviour that managers would otherwise struggle to see, given the daily distractions of their working lives – providing them with the information they need to address problems and reduce those unnecessary absences.

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