In 2013, sick leave cost UK employers about £29bn. Workers in the UK took an average of 9.1 sick days in 2013, which is higher than the average of 7.1 across the rest of Western Europe. This cost comprises loss of production or output and other resource costs associated with sickness absence including the value of time spent on sickness absence management and healthcare costs. However, it does not include other costs to society (e.g. loss of quality of life or well-being, i.e. ‘human costs’), which would push the cost up yet further.
Some things to consider when thinking about the cost of sickness in the workplace:
- Support while at work: Many organisations (particularly smaller ones) are unaware that a corporate wellness programme can enable employees to be at work while receiving support and/or medication after a period of illness.
- Prevention: Immunisation programmes in the workplace can considerably reduce absenteeism or sickness, and help maintain a productive environment.
- The cost of sickness: Poor employee retention means high staff turnover costs, loss of company knowledge and decreased morale. Employers who are trained in recognising the signs of ill health may help to pre-empt and prevent sickness absence.
- Screening: Health screening can drive productivity and return financial benefits.
- Future planning: Professionally-conducted health risk assessments provide vital information for the future protection of your workforce. Regular screening and surveillance is recommended.
- Hazards: Assessing your workplace for hazards pre-empts risk.
- Legislation: If you are not thinking about corporate wellness programmes, you may not be meeting your legislative requirements.
- Employee rights: Being aware of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Employment Act 2002 will enhance your ability to discuss issues with your employees.
- Occupational health provision: Occupational health management can help you focus on employee retention without a period of absence.
- Presenteeism: Considering the impact of people coming to work with illness is as important as managing the issues that come with absenteeism.
Fit for Work offers access to support and advice for those experiencing ill health at work, and to employers and GPs who are looking for information on work-related health topics.