• Better line managers help bring down sickness absence, CIPD reports

  • 6 Oct 2014
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But new data shows staff caring responsibilities detrimental to attendance

Employee sickness absence levels fell from 7.6 days to 6.6 days per employee in 2014, according to the latest CIPD/Simplyhealth Absence Management Survey.

A notable rise in the number of organisations developing line manager capability is said to have contributed to falling levels; from 39 per cent of organisations in 2013 to 61 per cent this year.

However the positive trend masks a rise in presenteeism, with a third of employers revealing that employees struggled into work whilst sick in 2014.

The CIPD’s 15th national survey of absence management trends, suggests that minor illnesses such as coughs or colds, remain the most common cause of short-term absence for the vast majority of organisations. But, two-fifths of survey respondents said stress-related absence had increased over the past year, and 43 per cent of organisations have noticed a rise in mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.

For the first time this year, the report includes analysis of employee caring responsibilities and the impact of this trend on absence levels.

More than one in three organisations report that absence levels have been affected; with 14 per cent reporting employees’ caring responsibilities had a moderate or considerable impact.

Thirty-six per cent of respondents noted non-work matters, such as relationships and/or family, was the top cause of stress-related absence.

Dr. Jill Miller, CIPD research adviser, and author of the report said the number of people with caring responsibilities would increase over time as employees juggle both childcare and looking after parents in the “ageing baby boomer generation”.

HR should support employees to help balance their work and home lives, she said.

According to the report, flexible working arrangements are the most common type of support offered to employees with caring responsibilities (68 per cent), while 53 per cent of employers offer compassionate leave, and 48 per cent paid or unpaid carers’ leave.

However, just one in six organisations offer all-staff policies or guidelines for carers, and two-fifths say they offer support to individuals on an ad hoc basis.

“These findings reveal the shocking situation that today’s workers face – torn between their work and family,” said Ben Black, director of service provider My Family Care.

“Landmark research from the CEBR revealed that an incredible 50,000 Britons will quit their jobs to care for their relatives with dementia this year which is just astounding, especially when you consider the multitude of ways that this can be avoided, through flexible working, career breaks, support groups or the ability to purchase additional leave.”

But Miller said it wasn’t enough just to implement a procedure: “It is important to have policy guidelines around what caring responsibilities actually mean,” she said.

“I know people generally think guidelines only cover looking after children. What does it mean if you have a partner who might be sick? Or you want to support your mother after your grandmother has died?

“It is important for employers to have a detailed policy and outline what support there is available to all employees,” she said.

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  • The only reason sick levels are down is because managers are either dismissing staff or handing out disciplinary meetings making situations worse than they really are,encouraging staff to leave. To me,this is bullying tactics! Those mostly effected are in a caring medical profession,what a shame managers aren't caring and base there decisions on policies and money. Staff need support,not bullying! In turn this will only create lack of patient care and compromised treatment..