Fewer working days are being lost to sickness absence

Employers are losing fewer working days to sickness absence, but many are likely to be underestimating its financial cost to the business, according to the Sickness Absence Rates and Costs Survey 2018 from XpertHR.

The survey, now in its twelfth year, is based on data from 287 organisations covering 398,453 employees across all industries.

Analysis of data for 2017 shows that, at the median, employers lost 5.6 days for each employee over the course of the year - down from a median 6.6 days for 2016, but a return to the levels that have held sway since the beginning of the decade.

The median cost of absence to employers rose from £455 in 2016 to £570 in 2017. But even this is likely to be an underestimate says XpertHR, with many employers not counting anything beyond the direct salary costs of the individuals on sick leave. They should, says XpertHR, start counting the cost of reduced levels of customer service and missed business opportunities and include these in truer costings.

Among the survey’s headline findings are:

  • Median absence rates stand at 5.6 days or 2.5% of working time
  • Mean average absence rates stand at 6.1 days or 2.8% of working time
  • Excluding long-term absences (periods of more than four weeks’ continuous absence), the median is 3.3 days and the mean 3.1 days
  • Absence rates are highest in large organisations and in the public sector

By region, median absence rates are highest in Wales (3%), the North West of England (2.8%) and the South West of England (2.8%). They are lowest in London (2%), the South East of England (2.3%) and the North East of England and Scotland (both 2.5%).