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June 15, 2010

Small firms have the lowest level of sickness absence

Small firms had a lower rate of absences last year than larger organisations – losing an average of just five sick days per employee, research from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has found.

As absence rates across the economy fell to their lowest level for 22 years in 2009, small firms outperformed their larger counterparts, losing an average of five sickness days per employee, compared to 5.8 days in organisations with 200 to 499 staff and 6.7 days in those with 500 to 4,999 staff.

British Chamber of Commerce spokesman, Sam Turvey, said the recession had made an impact on sickness levels in small firms, because staff were less likely to take time off due to job security concerns.

“Anecdotal evidence also shows that employees have also been more willing to chip in during the downturn, because they wanted their firm to get through the worst,” he said. “Fit notes have also made it easier for employers to focus on what staff could do at work, rather than what they couldn’t.”

Overall, the Absence Survey of 241 private and public sector organisations revealed that UK employees took an average of 6.5 days off sick last year, down from 6.7 days in 2007.

It found that a small improvement in the public sector absence rate helped the fall. However, absence levels remained static in the private sector, where the average was 5.8 days in both 2007 and 2009.

“The rate of employee absence has come down, but it still costs the economy billions of pounds a year,” said CBI director of employment policy, Katja Hall. “If absence levels across the board could be reduced by 10 per cent, the economy would save just under £1.7 billion. Unfortunately, bogus sick days remain a problem and are unfair on hard-working colleagues and employers alike.”

The survey revealed that 15 per cent of absences, equivalent to 27 million sick days, were not genuine.

A separate poll carried out by the Chartered Management Institute found that 38 per cent of employers fear their staff will “pull a sickie” during the World Cup.