Have you ever heard the one about the employee who claimed her persistent lateness for work was due to her hair taking too long to dry?

What about the one who could not attend work because he had locked himself out of his house wearing only his underpants – fortuitously carrying his mobile phone, it appeared.

Or even the employee who called in to say he could not come to work because he was standing on his sofa and there was a mouse between him and the door and he was too terrified to move.

Honestly, we did not make these up. They are some of the weird and wonderful reasons which respondents to the recent survey carried out by hrlaw have been given for absence from work. The survey results were recently presented at a conference on “Early interventions to reduce absenteeism in the workplace”, co-sponsored by Fox Williams.

We have all seen lots of statistics on how much businesses are losing through absenteeism, but we wanted to find out how a big a problem it was perceived to be by those trying to manage it. We also wanted to find out what the reasons were behind it and what employers found were the most effective tools to try and manage it. Thank you to all of those who participated. For the lucky winner of our prize, Cathy Slade of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, a half case of champagne is winging its way over to you!

Other key findings include:-

1. Long term absenteeism is a big problem for a small group

Whilst the majority of respondents (64%) indicated that none of their employees has been on long term sick leave (i.e. one month or more) over the past 12 months, one fifth of respondents have 20 or more employees on long term sick leave. This could indicate a culture of long-term absence, probably as a result of generous sick pay policies and lack of absence monitoring.

2. Absent through stress is a real concern for some

A very high proportion of respondents (76%) have 20 or more employees currently signed off with stress. Only 12% had no one signed off, 8% had between 1 and 5 employees signed off and 4% had 6 to 10 employees signed off. Large numbers of employees absent with stress could be caused by unsafe working environments, by poor management techniques, or a culture of employees using stress related absence as a response to workplace problems.

3. The most common excuses for short term absenteeism are…

47% of respondents indicated that sickness or accident is one of the two most frequently used reason for both short and long term absenteeism. 23% were absent from work as a result of sickness or accident to a child or member of their family. 16% cited domestic crises (i.e. broken boilers), whilst only 8% blamed transport problems for lateness. Managers were split evenly as to whether they accepted sickness absenteeism as being genuine.

If you would like more details on the survey results, please let us know.

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