Absenteeism costs businesses €1.5bn a year

ALCOHOL has been blamed by employers as the primary reason for 4% of short-term absence from work by their male employees and 1% by female employees, in a survey by employers’ body IBEC.

The survey goes on to suggest that absenteeism is costing business around €1.5 billion, with workers missing almost six days a year on average.

The latest Irish Business and Employers Confederation study, based on 2009 absentee levels, found that the recession had led to a slight fall in the number of days employees missed work.

More days were taken in bigger organisations than those with fewer than 50 staff members, with sickness remaining the most common cause.

Brendan Butler, IBEC policy director, said there was significant room for improvement.

“The recession appears to have led to a reduced level of absenteeism, however it remains a serious social and economic issue,” Mr Butler said.

“Besides its obvious impact on particular workplaces, absence affects the wider economy through loss of potential output and the increased spend on social security.

“While not all absence can be eliminated, there is significant room for improvement.”

The Employee Absenteeism — A Guide to Managing Absence report was based on absentee levels for 2009.

The study found:

* Employees missed 5.98 days on average, an absence rate of 2.58%, compared to 3.38% in the last survey in 2004. Every year, 11 million days were lost to absenteeism.

* Absence levels were higher in large organisations — 3.58% for companies employing over 500 employees, versus 2.17% for companies with fewer than 50 employees.

* The main cause of short-term absence was minor illness.

* 4% of companies cited alcohol and alcohol-related illness as being a leading cause of short-term absence for men, while the figure was 1% for women.

* Call centres recorded the highest absence rate at 3.67%, while software companies had the lowest rate at 1.56%.

IBEC said bosses can hold return to work interviews and put in place employee health and well-being supports to help reduce absenteeism.

“Problem absence is a significant direct cost to employers, as well as creating additional costs that are more difficult to quantify, such as the cost of reduced quality of output, increased pressure on colleagues and increased administration time in replacing absent employees,” Mr Butler said.

The report is based on data provided by 635 companies employing more than 110,000 employees.

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