Sunday 17 December 2017

Cost of sick days down for firms but is still over €550m a year

Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan

ABSENTEEISM in the workplace is falling but still costs small businesses (SMEs) more than €550m per year, according to new research.

A survey by the Small Firms Association (SFA) has found that some 3.9 million work days were missed in 2009, costing businesses an average of €563m per annum.

The euro figure was down significantly on the last SFA survey two years ago, which estimated the cost at €793m.

Despite the huge cost, SMEs still have one of the better attendance records in Irish business, claims the SFA. Staff at businesses with less than 50 employees are on sick leave for an average of five days every year, compared to the national average of eight.

Employees at bigger firms are out of the office for an average of 10 days every year.

The director of the SFA, Avine McNally, claims the overall cost of staff missing work could be much higher than €563m.


"That figure is based on average earnings but takes no account of other direct costs such as the requirement to replace absent staff or overtime payments, and the cost of medical referrals. There are also indirect costs such as the effect on productivity and quality, as well as increased pressure on other colleagues," she said.

"The overall cost could be closer to €900m," Ms McNally added.

The manufacturing sector has the worst attendance record, with employees missing about seven days due to illness every year, while workers in the west and north-west are on sick leave for 9.1 days of the year -- the most in the country.

Most of those absences are caused by back problems and stress -- something that concerns Ms McNally -- who called for firms to create a definite policy to deal with absence, especially when it is stress-related.

"Employers should ensure that they are fulfilling their duty of care to their employees."

"Promoting employee health and welfare, tackling the issues surrounding stress in the workplace and management training for handling absenteeism, should assist in reducing absenteeism," she concluded.

Irish Independent

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