The level of sick related absenteeism has dropped to an all-time low since records began, with UK workers taking on average only 4.3 sick days every year, compared to an average of 7.2 days back in 1993. However, this still equated to around 137m lost days in 2016 and a high opportunity costs to employers. So how can you ensure your company stays in line with this downward trend?
The most common causes of absenteeism
According to the Office of national statistics, the main causes of absenteeism include:
- Minor illness such as colds and headaches
- Musculoskeletal injuries
- Back pain
- Home/family responsibilities
- Recurring medical conditions such as asthma
- Mental ill health
- Injuries and accidents not related to work
- Other absences not due to genuine ill health
- Acute medical conditions i.e. heart attack or stroke
Whilst some of these illnesses are completely unavoidable, there are some simple practical and operational steps most businesses can make to reduce some aspects of absenteeism.
Reducing the spread common colds and flu
A staggering 98% of our workforce is affected by a minor illness such as a cold each year, it is therefore un-supprising that this makes up for over a ¼ of all absenteeism. Unsurprisingly each year during the cold and flu season, there is a dramatic spike in absenteeism rates for both full-time and part-time employees. But most of these outbreaks could be easily prevented by educating workers and incorporating good hygiene practices into the workplace. Our tips for reducing the spread of germs include:
- Add sanitization dispensers into washrooms and replace hand dryers with paper towels (view our washroom services.)
- Ensure workers wash their hands correctly buy putting up educational signage showing correct handwashing procedures.
- In office environments, regularly sanitise office workstations (check out our computer and keyboard sanitization packages.)
- Thoroughly clean areas that facilitate the spread of germs such as lift buttons, water coolers, ATMs, door knobs and stair railings.
These are simple but effective steps that could dramatically reduce levels of absenteeism in the workplace. What’s more the cost of implementation is just a drop in the ocean compared to the relative costs of sick staff.
Improving conditions for respiratory problems
In the UK an astonishing 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for asthma. With figures at an all-time high it is essential that steps are taken in the workplace to lesson symptoms for asthma and other respiratory conditions. Here are some of our recommendations.
- Ensure surfaces are dusted on a frequent basis.
- Don’t sweep dust into the air.
- Make sure workers wear correct PPE including dust masks and other respiratory protective equipment
- Employers must follow Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations by assessing the risk of exposure to chemicals (you can conduct an assessment at http://coshh-tool.hse.gov.uk//). At Crystal Clean Service we ensure COSHH requirements are strictly adhered to.
- Monitor the condition of those affected by respiratory illnesses and act on signs of ill health.
- Know what to do in the event of an asthma attack (visit https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/asthma-attacks/.
Work related injuries and accidents
It is vital that slips, falls and other hazards are avoided by ensuring preventative precautions are put in place. This includes appropriate signage, slip-proof surfaces and the prompt clean-up of spillages (see our blog post slip, trips and falls). Moreover, training should be kept up to date including machinery operation and manual handling. You must also regularly conduct risk assessments which can be downloaded from the HSE. All Crystal Clean Service staff attend frequent health and safety training and we conduct our own risk assessments on all customer sites.
Absenteeism costs more than you think
Sickness pay is only the tip of the ice berg when it comes to the true cost of absenteeism. Here are some of the additional costs you may not have considered:
- Administrative costs
- Inadequate quality of goods and services resulting from fatigue of staff overtime or understaffing
- The cost of replacement workers such as temporary workers or overtime payments for existing employees
- Poor morale due to understaffing
- Decreased productivity
- Excess manager time searching for employee replacements
- Safety risks (i.e. inadequately trained employees filling in for others, rushing to catch up with workload)
The threat of presenteeism
Some experts believe presenteeism could prove to be an even bigger threat to UK workplace productivity, as workers coming in and doing nothing leads to low productivity and increases the chance of spreading contagious illnesses to other colleagues.
Whilst it is impossible to completely irradiate all forms of absenteeism, simple steps can be taken to significantly lessen levels of sickness in the workplace and reduce the spread of harmful pathogens. At Crystal Clean Service we are committed to helping our customers create and maintain healthy, cleanly environments. For a free on-site assessment, you can call us on 0114 4010 550 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.