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What can HR do to lower absence rates?

What can HR do to lower absence rates?

HR departments might need to do more to lower sickness absence levels in the UK. 

New research by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has shown that 650,000 people miss work every week because they are too ill. 

The study indicated the public sector is the worst affected, with 51,000 employees calling in sick in a typical week. 

It is thought that sickness absences cost the UK economy £100 billion every year, which suggests the issue needs to be dealt with as a matter of urgency.

While HR professionals cannot force people to work if they are ill, there are a number of measures they can introduce to lower absence rates. 

According to the BHF, nearly eight million workers have an ailment that lasts for more than a year and 44 per cent of this number say the problem prevents them from doing their job to the best of their ability. 

As such, it is important the HR department does all it can to make life as easy as possible for employees who fall under this category. This could mean introducing more breaks, providing more flexible working hours and arrangements or offering free healthcare services. 

BHF project manager Lisa Purcell feels businesses should perhaps take more of an interest in the kind of lifestyles their employees are leading.

Of course, staff who eat unhealthy food and fail to complete their daily quota of exercise are more likely to suffer an illness that keeps them off work. 

"Businesses that have prioritised workplace health have been able to create a healthier, more productive workforce with fewer days lost to sickness," Ms Purcell commented. 

Simple measures, such as providing free fruit for employees, can help to lower absence rates, while more expensive perks like discounted gym membership might also have a positive impact.

While the initial expense of paying for all employees to attend a health club may put off a lot of firms, there is a chance they will recoup this money through reduced absence rates in the future.