Unauthorised Absence Costing UK Economy MillionsMonday, May 4th, 2009
Warning comes as hundreds take ‘sickies’ in wake of swine flu outbreak
British businesses are losing out because of increasing numbers of unauthorised absences, says the Institute of Payroll Professionals (IPP), the UK’s leading membership body for workers in payroll.
Their comments come as figures show that hundreds of people took a ‘sickie’ on Monday claiming they were suffering from flu, as panic over swine flu swept Britain.
On Monday, it is estimated that more than 27,000 people took the day off sick for cold, cough and flu symptoms, according to absence management company FirstCare’s database of 60,000 employees.
That is more than 2,000 or 8.2 per cent higher than would be expected for this time of year.
While the vast majority of absences must be deemed to be genuine, the growing number of people inclined to take unauthorised absence can have a major impact on a business’s bottom line and a ruinous affect on a company’s productivity.
For payroll departments sick days can become a major headache. This is mainly due to the fact that some businesses not only have to pay staff for time they are not in attendance, but also have to pay overtime and provide wages for temporary cover.
Lindsay Melvin, CEO of the IPP, says: “Everybody gets sick and employers understand that the majority of absence is genuine. However Monday’s absence figures, which coincided with outbreaks of swine flu being seen on the news, were very alarming.
“Staff absence can cost employers considerable amounts of money and businesses need to put measures in place so that they can gain a true insight into absence patterns and manage them appropriately.”
To minimise the affect of absenteeism companies need to ensure that they are robust from a legal and HR perspective.
Staff contracts and handbooks normally state what steps employees are obliged to take should they need to be absent or are forced to be absent through genuine reasons. The payroll and HR department should fully understand the company sick pay scheme to enable them to process and record the payroll correctly.
Likewise the payroll and HR department should be fully conversant in all areas relating to staff contracts and legislation such as Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). By law you are only entitled to Statutory Sick Pay if you’re sick for at least four days in a row, and you are earning at least an average of £95 a week.
In a bid to combat absenteeism, companies should also fully utilise their payroll software, in particular the reporting procedures, which can gauge the true size and scale of absence levels and highlight any unusal patterns. This is the data that will help dictate the best interventions to counter the issues effectively, or even whether there is an issue there to tackled at all.
Only last year the Federation of Small Business claimed that absence costs the British economy an estimated £13 billion a year.