New research from the accountancy giant PwC reveals that British workers spend on average four times as much time off sick than their counterparts in rival economies, at an annual cost to employers of almost £29 billion.
While workers in the Asia-Pacific region take an average of just 2.2 sick days per year and US workers take an average of 4.9 days, British workers take a hefty 9.1 sick days annually, exceeding the 7.3 day average for western Europe.
Jon Andrews, an HR consulting leader at PwC, urged UK firms to work on methods to improve employee morale, motivation and health to address this increasingly burdensome cost. Progressive companies, he said, invest in health and wellbeing services as a preventive measure to stop absences from hitting “their bottom lines”, which is an approach that SMEs might wish to adopt because the cost of sickness for them “can be particularly crippling”.
Mr Andrews added: “The stark variation in absence levels among different sectors and across western Europe suggests employee engagement, workplace environment and culture can have a huge influence on the number of sick days employees take.”
The study sampled 2,500 UK businesses and found that sickness accounts for a staggering 90% of their absence costs, which also includes days lost through industrial action and compassionate leave. While employees are taking fewer unscheduled absence days in 2013 compared to 2011 – down from 10.1 days to 9.8 days – the number of sick days taken has climbed over the same period from 8.7 days to 9.1 days.
In the light of such figures, more employers may, it seems, consider hiring Umbrella Company Employees to spare themselves eye-watering sickness costs.