CIPD Absence Management Survey 2016: the key findings

CIPD Absence Management Survey 2016: the key findings

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Absence Management Report is the UK’s definitive annual study on employee absence.

It provides crucial intelligence on sickness absence trends, policy and practice, offering businesses fascinating insights that can be useful in shaping health and wellbeing strategies.

More than 1,000 HR professionals nationwide were surveyed for the 2016 edition of the report and we have scoured its findings to provide you with five of the most interesting.

Absence at lowest level for seven years

This year’s report revealed a fall in absence across all sectors – manufacturing and production, private, public, non-profit – to the point where it has reached its lowest level for seven years.

The average level of absence is 6.3 days per employee per year, compared to 6.9 days last year and 7.4 days in 2010, while the median cost of absence per employee has fallen slightly to £522.

The largest decrease in absence was noticed in the non-profit sector, where it fell from 7.8 days per employee to 6.9. But absence continues to be highest in the public sector (8.5 days), where employees average over three days more than their private sector counterparts (5.2). Absence also tends to be higher in larger organisations, regardless of sector.

Stress is still a big problem

Stress remains the number one reason for long-term absence, cited as the most common cause by 29 per cent of employees.

And the situation only appears to be getting worse. Almost a third of respondents report stress-related absence in their organisation has increased over the past year.

The study found workloads and volume of work are the number one cause of stress, cited by 55 per cent of respondents, followed by non-work factors (such as relationships/family) and management style, selected by 33 per cent and 32 per cent respectively.

As a result, there is an onus on organisations to put schemes in place to address the problem. These could range from flexible working to employee assistance programmes (EAPs) that provide access to 24-hour counselling support.

Mental health issues on the rise

Another problem related to the prevalence of workplace stress is the increase in reported mental health problems. Overall, two-fifths of companies claim to have seen a rise in the past 12 months.

The report claimed both mental health problems and stress-related absence are strongly linked to a long hours culture and less common within organisations where there is a stronger focus on employee wellbeing.

And while 55 per cent of respondents agree that their organisation is effective at supporting people with mental health problems, only 24 per cent agree staff are well informed about the common mental health risks and symptoms.

This highlights an education gap, which organisations may look to plug through greater education and engagement around the topic, aligned with a culture of openness.

Wellbeing more than just a buzz word?

There appears to be a growing recognition among businesses of the importance of employee wellbeing initiatives.

Almost half of respondents in the survey report an increased focus on wellbeing compared with the previous year, while just three per cent report a decrease.

The most popular wellbeing benefits are counselling, which 56 per cent of organisations claim to provide to all employees, followed by employee assistance programmes (52 per cent) and advice on healthy eating (34 per cent).

However, almost three-fifths of respondents claim their organisation’s approach to wellbeing is more reactive than proactive regarding wellbeing, showing there remains room for improvement in putting wellbeing at the centre of absence management and benefits programmes.

Presenteeism a growing concern

‘Presenteeism’ is the phenomenon of staff attending work when unwell and it appears companies are becoming wise to the negative effect it can have.

Almost half of respondents (48 per cent) report their organisation has taken steps to discourage presenteeism over the past 12 months, compared to 31 per cent in 2015 and 32 per cent in 2014.

The study found a link between presenteeism and stress-related absence or mental health problems, providing a strong reason why organisations should discourage the practice. More than half of those who had noticed an increase in presenteeism also saw an increase in stress-related absence compared with less than a third of those who hadn’t.

Organisations that noticed an increase in presenteeism were also twice as likely to see a rise in mental health problems.

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