Managers sick of sickies

Sep 22 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

With one in five British workers admitting to faking illness for a day off work, two-thirds of managers think that staff who are off work repeatedly should have their pay stopped.

Research into employees' and employers' views on absence by healthcare provider BUPA has found that only one in three managers always believe that staff who call in sick are genuinely ill.

But dealing with staff who throw 'sickies' is also proving to be a problem. Over a third of managers think bosses are unwilling to question staff too closely about what is wrong with them and over half think it is difficult to distinguish between what is a genuine illness and what is not.

Managers believe the most commonly used excuses by someone phoning in sick when they are not really ill are food poisoning and cold/flu, with wanting a long weekend and having a hangover seen as the main reasons for illegitimate absence.

But on the flip side, almost four out of 10 (37 per cent) of employees said they avoided taking time off when they were too ill to work out of a sense of duty - with the knock on effect that they had to take time out later to fully recover, or other colleagues got ill as a result.

With sickies estimated to have cost the ULK economy some £1.7 billion last year, BUPA's Ann Greenwood said that organisations need better absence management.

But as other research has shown, more than half of Britain's employers do not know how much absence is costing their business while one in five do not even know their annual absence rates.

"You can't manage what you can't measure and companies who don't properly monitor absence are risking their bottom line," Ann Greenwood said.

"Three quarters of managers think that employers should not get involved unless the employee is not better after several days, but the fact is that if you manage absence from day one you are more likely to get employees back to work quickly.

"With six per cent of longĖterm absence making up 40 per cent of the absence costs a quick return to work is vital."