Monday, 22 December 2014

Absenteeism crippling small businesses

Absenteeism from work costs small business €793 million per annum, and the average staff member in a large firm is absent for ten days annually.

For small businesses, the figure is six days, but given the small staff involved, the knock-on effects can be more severe in smaller organisations. Cork and the south-east have the highest levels of absenteeism and back pain and stress are listed as the biggest contributors.

The national average for absenteeism is 3.5 percent, or eight days annually. In small firms, this is six days, in medium firms eight days and in large firms ten days.

The absenteeism figures are highest for call centres, at 6.1 percent, with metal and engineering work next at 5.1. Paper/printing and publishing is 2.8, while wholesale distribution and transport is 2.3 percent.

The study conducted by the Small Firms Association took place throughout Ireland and covered all sectors of Irish Business.

According to Avine McNally, Assistant Director of the Small Firms Association, “the results show marked differences across sectors and regions, and show that small firms with less than 50 employees, are less likely to have workers absent on sick leave than larger firms.” 

In cash terms, absenteeism costs small businesses with sick pay schemes an estimated €793 million per annum, based on average earnings of €149 per day / €37,400 per annum. “This takes no account of other direct costs such as the requirement to replace absent staff with other workers or overtime payments, and the cost of medical referrals; or of the indirect costs such as the effect on productivity and quality, the increased work pressure on other colleagues, and the admin time in managing absence”. The overall cost in reality could be in excess of €1 billion”, commented McNally.

“Back pain/injury and stress are the most commonly cited problems on medical certs”, stated McNally. “Employers should ensure that they are fulfilling their duty of care to their employees by including manual handling and stress when conducting risk assessments as part of their review of their Health & Safety Statements.”

“A substantial portion of back injury can be prevented by an effective control program and ergonomic design of work tasks. Controls could include: correct training in regard to lifting techniques; reduction in the size or weight of objects being lifted; adjusting the height of pallets/shelving and the installation of mechanical aids or automated materials handling equipment.”

McNally added, “it is a concern that stress remains one of the high reasons for absenteeism, as aside from the employees’ absence, stress can lead to a less productive workforce, faulty decision-making, and ultimately the possibility of legal action being taken against the company for negligence or constructive dismissal”. Firms should implement a specific policy on workplace stress. They should educate employees on stress management, while being receptive to the potential causes of stress and the early warning signs of stress. On a practical level, they should also ensure that their Employers Liability Insurance will protect them against any compensation awards that may arise from this area”, commented McNally.