A third of UK employers (34%) have experienced increased employee absence in the last year, with employers recording an average of 4.8 days lost per employee per year.

These are the latest findings from the Absence Management Survey by WTW, (NASDAQ: WTW), a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company.

Mental health issues, minor illness and long-term disability were the main causes of increased workplace absence that employers want to address. In fact, 38% of companies have incurred increased costs for absence management and occupational health support costs, while a further 38% have experienced increased use of Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) services and 37% have faced increased health insurance claims.

Charlotte Steventon-Kiy, Absence Management Lead at WTW, commented:

The costs associated with absence alone highlight the need for companies to make employee wellbeing a top priority. It is crucial to maximise the use of data to drive insights and measure the success of mechanisms in place. This will ensure that the levels of support continue to be appropriate from both a prevention and absence management perspective.

Charlotte Steventon-Kiy, Absence Management Lead at WTW

As UK companies look to tackle employee absence issues, many plan to prioritise reviewing and updating policies as part of their absence strategy (44%), while others will look to target employees at higher risk of absence (35%) and enhance absence tracking systems (34%).

Additionally, two-thirds (63%) of organisations say lack of manager capability has acted as a top barrier to managing absence, as well as lack of understanding on costs and trends in absence (44%). While cost management remains an issue, in the next two years, half of organisations (52%) are planning to implement modelling to estimate the cost of absence.

Companies that are effective at managing absence have implemented strong processes around recording absence and understanding the costs involved, prioritising systems that support managers, and implementing programmes that support employees to return to work.

In a bid to support employees returning from periods of absence, two thirds (69%) are using early intervention services to help employees to return to work sooner, as well as creating streamlined long-term disability processes with insurer and occupational health care provider integration (62%). Other changes designed to reduce pressure on employees include offering increased flexibility around working schedules.

Charlotte concludes:

It is becoming increasingly evident that the way organisations manage absence isn’t working. The need for a clear strategy inclusive of absence processes, cost measurement and clear employee signposting is fundamental in ensuring employees are supported and can be integrated back into the workplace following a period of absence.

Joanne Swann, Content Manager, WorkWellPro
Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website

Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.