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Stress a major cause of absenteeism
[Posted: Tue 26/10/2010 by Deborah Condon www.irishhealth.com]
Absenteeism from work is costing small businesses at least €560 million per year, with back pain and stress the most commonly cited problems on medical certs, a new report by the Small Firms Association (SFA) has revealed.
According to the findings, the national average absenteeism rate is eight days, although the average rate among small firms is five days. People working for large firms miss an average of 10 days annually.
"Back pain/injury and stress are the most commonly cited problems on medical certs. Employers should ensure that they are fulfilling their duty of care to their employees by including manual handling and stress when conducting risk assessments as part of their review of their health and safety statements," said SFA acting director, Avine McNally.
She said it was ‘a concern' that stress remains one of the major reasons for absenteeism, as aside from the employees' absence, stress can lead to a less productive workforce, faulty decision-making, and ultimately the possibility of legal action being taken against the company for negligence or constructive dismissal.
Meanwhile Ms McNally noted that overall, the report found ‘marked differences across sectors and regions'.
In term of regions, the West/North-West had the worst absenteeism rate in the country, at 4.2% (9.1 days), followed by the North-East, at 3.3% (7.2 days). The lowest absenteeism rate (1.8%) was found in the Mid-West.
In terms of industry, the highest absenteeism rate (3.1%) was found in manufacturing.
According to the report, in cash terms, absenteeism costs small businesses with sick pay schemes an estimated €563 million per annum, based on average earnings of €143 per day.
However, this takes no account of other direct costs such as the requirement to replace absent staff with other workers or overtime payments, and the cost of medical referrals. It also does not take into account indirect costs such as the effect on productivity and quality and the increased work pressure on other colleagues.
As a result, the overall cost could actually be closer to €900 million, Ms McNally pointed out.
She insisted that there is an increasing need for businesses to have an overall policy to deal with absenteeism, as there are issues for both employers and employees.
Employers should be aware that there are a wide range of factors that can influence employees' attendance patterns and levels. These include good communication, training and development, working conditions, job design, team working and the creation and fostering of a culture and organisational morale, which encourages and recognises excellent attendance.
In relation to the issue of stress, Ms McNally noted that with a contracting labour market, some employees are being placed under additional pressure due to new and different responsibilities. She said that employers should be aware of the impact of their actions and consider the implementation of a specific policy on workplace stress.
"They should educate employees on stress management, while being receptive to the potential causes and the early warning signs of stress. On a practical level, they should also ensure that their employers liability insurance will protect them against any compensation awards that may arise from this area," she added.
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