Although, falling since 1999, absenteeism still remains a significant cost to British employers.

  • Over £10 billion to UK business as a whole in 2000 or £434 per employee per year.1

  • Employers believe that general sickness represents the most common cause of absence but home and family responsibilities, personal problems and poor workplace morale are also significant.

  • 94% of organisations report that sickness absence constitutes a "significant" or "very significant" business burden. 2

Causes of absence 3

Health & lifestyle factors Workplace factors
  - Genuine illness/poor health
- Smoking
- Excessive use of alcohol
- Lack of exercise
- Body weight
  - Working patterns
- Health & safety concerns
- Travel times
- Excessive hours
  Attitudinal & stress factors   Domestic & kinship factors
  - Job satisfaction
- Career satisfaction
- Intention to leave
- Organisational commitment
- Stress
- Absence 'culture'
  - Gender
- No. of children under 16
- Lack of flexible working arrangements

Workplace stress

  • The TUC recently reported that workplace stress, caused by shift work, staff cuts and bullying, is the biggest workplace health hazard in UK workplaces 4. It is the main cause of longer-term absence among non-manual staff. 5

  • Interim findings of a survey commissioned by the Health & Safety Executive reported that one in five respondents reported that they were "very" or "extremely" stressed at work. A further report published by the HSE in 2001 6 shows that teachers, members of the nursing profession, managers and other professionals are among the most stressed occupations in the UK and 6.5million sick days are taken every year as a result of stress.

  • 70% of respondents to a recent Industrial Society survey cite a lack of balance between work and personal life as a major factor in occupational stress. 7

Long hours culture

  • Fathers in the UK work the longest hours in Europe - an average of 48 hours per week for those with children under 11. 8

  • One-quarter to one third of employees in a US survey reported that they experienced negative spill over from their jobs into their personal lives often or very often. 9

  • Surveys have found that employees believe working continually long hours affects their health.10, 11

1 Confederation of British Industry, Pulling Together: 2001 absence and labour turnover survey. London: CBI 2001.

2 Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, Employee Absence: a survey of management policy and practice. CIPD, 2001.

3 Bevan S & Hayday S, Attendance Management: a review of good practice (IES Report 353). Brighton: Institute for Employment Studies, 1998.

4 Trades Union Congress. Focus on Health and Safety, London: TUC 2000.

5 Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, Employee Absence: a survey of management policy and practice. CIPD, 2001.

6 Rick J, Briner R et al. A critical review of psychosocial hazard measures. London: HSE, 2001.

7 Industrial Society. Managing Best Practice. Research Summaries No. 83: Occupational Stress. London: Industrial Society, 2001.

8 Office for National Statistics. Social Trends 30. London: The Stationery Office, 2000.

9 Bond J, Galinsky E, Swanberg J. The 1997 National Study of the Changing Workforce. New York: Families and Work Institute, 1997.

10 Austin Knight UK Limited. The Family Friendly Workplace: An investigation into long hours cultures and family friendly employment practices. London: Austin Knight, 1995.

11 Kodz J, Kersley B, Strebler M T, O'Regan S. Breaking the Long Hours Culture. Brighton: IES, 1998.