Absence Management Survey 2013 published

CIPD and Simplyhealth have published the annual Absence Management survey results for 2013. The survey got 618 responses from organisations employing in total 2.3 million employees. Overall, the survey found little had changed in absence management since last year. The headline finding was that absence levels were up slightly at 7.6 days per employee per year across the sample. To compare this to previous years’ results, in 2012 the survey reported 6.8 days lost per employee per year and the 2011 figure almost identical to this year’s at 7.7 days. (For the record, 7.6 days translates to 3.3% of working time lost, which is the preferred metric used by Honeydew because it is to directly apply to both full and part time employees and those working different lengths of shift.)

The Return to Work (RTW) interviews remain one of the most common methods used to manage absence. In terms of tackling short term absence, use of flexible working and providing leave for family circumstances were on the rise and long term absence is increasingly being combatted by making changes to working patterns or environment. Two-fifths of employers also reported that they had made efforts to improve line managers’ ability to manage absence and conduct RTW interviews and these efforts were seen to be the most effective in achieving positive results. This year’s survey also asked how employers promoted good attendance and found that developing managers’ people management skills was seen as the key to improved attendance by 69%.

It is always interesting to see what employers have to say about the Fit Note, which is still finding its feet in the working world. Only 7% could report a reduction in absence thanks to the Fit Note and a whopping 75% disagreed that it had a positive impact on absence. However, 72% of respondents believe that the Fit Note is not being used effectively by GPs so there is hope if only the doctors learn how to make better use of the tool.

Interestingly, just over third of employers had absence improvement targets in place. This is not so surprising for the 29% who do not believe it possible to reduce their absence but for the remaining 71% it seems like a missed opportunity. Just under half of these organisations have targets in place.

Finally: the cost of absence, which is of course one of the key details that people pick out of the CIPD report. This year, the average cost of absence is estimated at £595 per employee per year. The fact that more small and medium-sized organisations responded to the survey this year may go some way to explain why, despite the identical absence level, the cost of absence is lower than in 2011 (£673). This figure, of course, is also the result of hugely different organisations’ estimations ranging from average £726 in the public and £469 in the private sector.

Honeydew Health Ltd