American workers are more likely than ever to skive or skip off work, a new poll has suggested, calculating that the rate of unscheduled absence by U.S workers is now at its highest since 1999 – with companies that are, perhaps unsurprisingly, managed badly and rife with low morale suffering the most.
Research by HR and employment law consultancy CCH has found unscheduled absences rose to 2.5 per cent this year, just shy of 1999's 2.7 per cent.
For the average employer, such skiving cost some $850,000 a year in direct payroll costs.
And what is also clear is that all this unscheduled absence is in no way related to genuine sickness.
Just over a third of the absences were attributable to personal illness.
A quarter were, instead, to do with family issues, 18 per cent were related to "personal needs" and 12 per cent to stress.
Worryingly, just over a tenth of the employers polled said "an entitlement mentality" was behind the last-minute absences.
More positively, more than half – 56 per cent – of 326 HR executives surveyed said presenteeism, or reporting to work when ill and unable to work at full capacity, was up from four out of 10 in 2004 to nearly half last year.
Unscheduled absences were more common at organisations with low morale and stress was more likely the reason cited for those absences.
Nearly half of organisations with poor or fair employee morale said unscheduled absence was a serious problem.
By comparison, under a quarter of those with good or very good morale said the same.
Twice as many employers with poor morale reported an increase in unscheduled absences over the past two years compared with those with good or very good morale.
In response, the survey also found, employers were now offering more work/life programmes to help employees deal with the demands on their time, providing an average of 11 compared with the nine offered in 2005 and eight in 2004.
The most popular of these were employee assistance programmes followed by wellness programmes, leave for school functions, flu shots and alternative work arrangements.
The most effective, though, were alternative work arrangements, leave for school functions, compressed work weeks, telecommuting and emergency child care, it also found.