mixed group of people at work

Five Tips on Reducing Absenteeism

7 February 2023

What are the absenteeism rates in your business like? Are you concerned? There are several causes of high absenteeism rates. During this blog, we'll detail the steps to take to identify the potential issues in your business and the steps to take to turn them around.

The National Sickie Day initiative would argue that taking an extra day or two for ourselves is a good thing, recognising that some employees use them for mental health reasons. 


They claim that by recognising and responding to their wellbeing needs, employees reduce the risk of further absences by giving themselves this one day to rest and recharge.


Whilst it’s essential to practise self-care, presenteeism also costs employers significantly. 


Absenteeism in the UK


“In 2021, there were 149.3 million working days lost to sickness in the UK. This is an average of 4.6 days off sick per employee.” Safe Workers


In comparison, Germany reported an average of over 18 days per employee during the same period. Whilst the cost to the economy is high, the UK has the fourth lowest average in Europe.


You can take a lot away from these figures, especially considering that Germany is known for its productivity. 

In addition to these figures on absenteeism, a CIPD survey from 2018 found that 86% of the respondents “had observed presenteeism in their organisation over the last 12 months.”


For clarity, presenteeism is when employees continue to work when they're ill and unable to perform at their usual levels. 


This graph tells an interesting but not unsurprising story since you’d expect the absenteeism rate to increase during the coronavirus pandemic. However, before that, absenteeism rates were consistently lowering.


However, with presenteeism rates climbing, it suggests that workers are heading to their desks when they’re ill instead of taking time to recover. Some blame this trend on the UK’s statuary sick pay, which despite increasing in 2022, along with national living and minimum wages, is still one of the lowest in Europe.


Reducing absenteeism


According to ONS, an estimated 185.6 million working days were lost because of sickness or injury in 2022.

Remember that we’re not just talking about genuine sick days. 


There are steps you can take to support your employees’ health, but illness will strike, and there are always times when an employee cannot and should not be working.


However, some of those early morning calls or emails aren’t down to illness at all.


1. Identify the problem


If you have a large proportion of employees’ taking more than the UK average of 4.6 days in absences, you potentially have a significant problem on your hands. The first thing to assess is whether the absences are due to illness or something else is the cause.


Here are some areas you could investigate:


  • Performance and review records

  • Conflicts or disciplinary measures

  • Changes in personal circumstances

  • Doctors’ notes (where applicable)

  • Patterns within specific teams

  • Engagement scores

  • Workplace culture

  • How effectively employee wellbeing is supported.

You could expand this list further—however, the above points link to areas known to impact the employee experience.


2. Boost motivation


Has your investigation revealed that many absences are linked to unmotivated and unengaged employees?


There’s a lot to consider when it comes to the disengaged or unengaged workforce, and you can read more in our blog on Re-engaging the Disengaged Employee. However, one factor will always be pivotal: reward and recognition.


Your reward and recognition strategy has the power to boost employee motivation when the proper drivers are in place. Incentivising your employees with financial rewards via an easily loadable employee recognition card or eVouchers are a few ways to achieve this.


However, it’s always best to research what matters most to your people and devise an individual and personalised approach to your reward strategy.


3. Boost mental wellbeing


Whether you agree with the ethos behind National Sickie Day or not, your employees’ mental wellbeing should be a priority. The effects of the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis are impacting the Nation’s mental health. When left unchecked, unmanageable stress and anxiety lead to further mental and physical illness.


You can help prevent this.


Give your employees a safe space and professional support with an Employee Assistance Programme. With BCAP-accredited counsellors the swipe of a button away, you can ensure your people have the help they need when they need it.


4. Boost physical wellbeing


Sometimes your people will be genuinely ill or need to see their GP. It’s unavoidable, but when you combine travel and waiting times, 41% of employees use half a working day to attend a GP appointment. By offering access to an Online GP service, you could help them arrange convenient, virtual GP appointments, reducing those lost hours.


You also help your employees maintain healthier lifestyles, reducing the risk of illness.


Embed a corporate gym membership or a cycle to work salary sacrifice scheme into your business, and you can help make exercise affordable again.


5. Stretch salaries further


Rational thought suggests that if employees are struggling with the rising cost of supporting their household, taking time off work is counterproductive. However, if an employee is suffering from poor mental or physical health brought on by financial worries, it may not be possible to avoid it.


Help ease the burden of the cost of living by offering household support via an employee cashback card that could earn them up to 15% cashback when they use it to purchase their everyday essentials.


Boost their salaries even further by embedding an employee discounts platform into your benefits package. Put the power to make meaningful savings in their hands, and you’ll be helping to ease the burden of their rising bills while preventing potential illness caused by financial anxiety.


Reduce absenteeism & presenteeism with Pluxe UK


Absenteeism and presenteeism may be two different issues, but both impact your bottom line and can be tackled in similar ways. Whether the issue is arising due to unhappiness at work, or wellbeing-related illness, by following these five steps, you can re-engage and motivate your people whilst taking care of their physical, mental, and financial wellbeing.


Pluxee UK has been supporting employers for over 60 years, and we continue to make it our mission to help you help your people succeed. Contact an employee wellbeing expert today for more information.