Absenteeism costing small businesses over €490 million per annum

The Small Firms Association published its Absenteeism Report 2014 in February, and this has shown that absence costs small businesses €490 million per annum where they are directly paying through sick pay schemes. In 2014, there were 4,052,222 days lost and the most common complaints resulting in absence were shown to be back pain and anxiety/depression.

Interestingly, large businesses have a higher percentage absenteeism rate of 2.34% or 5.4 days, whilst companies with less than 50 employees have a rate of 2.06% absenteeism or 4.7 days. When additional costs such as replacing staff, paying overtime, and medical referrals, loss of productivity etc, the total overall cost is nearer to €1 billion.

The Workplace Relations Bill will greatly increase this cost, as this includes a provision to amend the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, to allow employees to continue to accrue annual leave whilst on sick leave. This will mean that an employee who is absent for a year will still be entitled to four weeks paid annual leave.

Back pain/injury and anxiety/depresssion are the most frequent illnesses cited for absence on medical certificates, however absenteeism has been steadily declining over the last 10 years, with more companies focussed on managing absenteeism and more management of pro-active ways to control and reduce absenteeism, such as ensuring manual handling and health and safety audits are covered off.