Businesses report increase in absence during UK heatwave (13/08/13)

Almost a third of UK firms have noticed a spike in absence rates during the recent warm weather, research has revealed.

The study commissioned by PMI Health Group revealed 30 per cent of firms have seen more staff call in sick since the start of summer.

However, 54 per cent of those questioned admit they still do not operate flexible working policies that staff are able to utilise at short notice.

“It is perhaps unsurprising to find the recent heatwave has had an effect on absence but the survey results highlight the need for businesses to understand whether this is caused by illness or lifestyle,” said PMI Health Group Director Mike Blake. “This means employers need to be increasingly flexible in their approach to working hours and benefits packages.

“Flexible shift patterns will allow employees to fulfil their required hours without feeling their work-life balance is compromised, while holistic wellbeing schemes can work on improving workplace morale.

“Companies can take a proactive approach to absence by encouraging their staff to lead healthier lives and putting schemes in place that help them to do so, helping to deliver a significant boost to morale.”

The study found 71 per cent of firms find it easier to engage employees in wellbeing schemes during the summer months.

Initiatives such as cycle-to-work schemes, discounted gym membership and even on-site fitness classes can be offered to staff as a means for improving their overall health and wellbeing.

“The government has made a major push to improve public health through the Public Health Responsibility Deal so there is a focus on the role businesses can play in this,” added Mike.

“On-site leisure facilities or fitness classes represent a good option for businesses that can accommodate them. Whether fully or partially subsidised for staff, these benefits are exempt from tax and national insurance contributions.

“Alternatively, discounted gym memberships can be offered – the cost of which may be covered by benefit schemes such as cash plans – or financial incentives awarded to employees who engage in regular physical activity.”