Employee absence rates on the increase

Employers lose a median 2.9% of their working time to employee absence.

This equates to 6.6 days per employee, and represents an increase on the figures for previous years. The XpertHR research looked at absence data for 2016 in 631 organisations.

The survey highlights the difference in absence rates between different sectors of the economy. Within the public sector, a median 4% of working time is lost to absence, equivalent to 9.1 days per employees. This compares with 2.6% of time in the private sector, or around 6 days per employee.

Absence rates increase with organisation size. While the smallest organisations (those with fewer than 100 employees) lose just 1.8% of working time, or 4 days per employee, absence within organisations with 1,000 or more employees accounts for 3.8% of working time, or 8.8 days per employee.

While these figures represent a slight increase on the data for the 2015 calendar year (when 2.6% of working time, or 5.8 days per employee, was recorded), they remain ‘comfortably lower’ than when XpertHR started collecting data more than a decade ago. Back in 2006, a median 3.5% of working time was lost to absence, equivalent to 8 days per employee.

Providing cover for absent employees represents a ‘significant cost’ for employers, who estimate the cost to be £455 per employee per year. However, many employers focus on the cost of paying sick pay for absent employees and fail to quantify factors such as the cost of cover, reduced performance or service, or missed business opportunities, which are likely to make the ultimate cost significantly higher.

Manufacturing absence data

The Engineering Employers Federation’s latest look at absence trends in manufacturing shows an absence rate for 2016 of 2.3%, representing an average 5.2 days lost per employee.

Manual workers, at 6.1 days (2.7%), continue to have higher levels of sickness absence than non-manual employees, at 3.1 days (1.4%). The absence rate for firms operating night shifts (2.5%) is higher than companies that don’t operate night shifts (2.1%).