In any office environment effectively managing and minimalising illnesses and absences is an important task; as is understanding the reasoning behind any days that staff may have away from work. Fortunately, ELAS Group have provided some substantial help in that regard as they recently published their latest statistics for 2017, revealing some consequential insights in the process.

ELAS Group’s data shows that while past trends such as National Sickie Day and Blue Monday are slowly diminishing, they have been replaced by a general uptick in absences on Mondays throughout the year. This problem has become so pronounced that the absence rate on Mondays now stands at almost double that of Fridays (23.5% compared to 13.2%).

The survey of 9,700 employees at 81 companies across the UK further revealed that the months of January, November, and December experience more absences than any other. At the other end of the scale sits April, which saw the fewest absences both in total and in terms of the average rate per week.

Overall the most common days on which to be absent from work are as follows:
  1. Mon 11th Dec (higher absence rate attributed to snowfall)
  2. Mon 2nd Oct
  3. Tues 3rd Jan
  4. Mon 20th Nov
  5. Mon 27th Nov
  6. Mon 30th Oct
  7. Mon 9th Jan
  8. Mon 23rd Jan
  9. Mon 25th Sept
  10. Mon 13th Nov
As you can see above, all but one of the top ten days for absences fall on a Monday, which rather handily reinforces my earlier point.

Breaking it down further the survey also revealed the most common times to call in sick, which are as follows:
  1. 7am – Mon 11th Dec (attributed to snowfall)
  2. 7am – Mon 6th Feb (National Sickie Day)
  3. 7am – Mon 2nd Oct
  4. 6am – Mon 27th Nov
  5. 7am – Mon 20th March
  6. 7am – Mon 25th Sept
  7. 7am – Mon 30th Oct
  8. 7am – Mon 20th Nov
  9. 7am – Mon 13th Nov
  10. 7am – Mon 9th Jan & 7am – Mon 27th Nov (tied)
Enrique Garcia, employment law consultant for ELAS, commented, “National Sickie Day as we know it is no more. There is, however, a developing trend showing for increased absence rates on Mondays which remains consistent throughout the year. Our absence management specialists first picked up on this shift in 2016 and now our 2017 statistics have again highlighted it.

“Of course genuine absences cannot be helped. It’s impossible to tell whether or not it’s purely coincidental that the absence rate on Mondays is so high or if people are taking advantage and looking to extend their weekend but employers need to be aware of this growing trend. Frequent absenteeism, or sickies, is a problem that costs the UK economy approximately £73 billion a year.

“Systems such as the Bradford Factor are particularly useful as they heavily weight against frequency of absence. This means that they don’t punish genuine sickness absences but rather short, frequent absenteeism. It also helps identify any patterns of absence e.g. someone who calls in sick regularly on a Monday or after pay day.

“We’ve heard some outrageous excuses for absence over the years and, once again, 2017 didn’t disappoint. As incredulous as some of these excuses sound, they are all real calls that were taken by our ELAS consultants in the last year.”

Of the incredulous, outrageous, and sometimes downright ridiculous excuses to which Mr Garcia refers, the top ten for 2017 as stated by ELAS are:
  1. I have to move house today and only found out last night
  2. I’ve broken my fingernail and my finger is sore
  3. My daughter has booked for me to go to the Emmerdale set today as a Christmas gift
  4. There’s a mouse in my kitchen, I’m terrified of it and have to find a way to get it out
  5. I fell off a stepladder while getting boxes out of the loft and injured my arm. I could have broken the fall but didn’t want to damage the Christmas decorations
  6. I’m unable to come to work today as the sun is making me feel sick
  7. My dog has heatstroke
  8. I’ve got indigestion
  9. I’m too sunburnt
  10. I went to a wedding over the weekend and am still too hung-over
Enrique Garcia concluded, “It is acceptable to challenge employees on their reasons for or levels of absence, especially if you identify a pattern that may lead you to believe these absences are not caused by genuine sickness. Whilst the employer whose employee called in as they were still drunk should be grateful that they didn’t drive to work under the influence, they should probably have a word with them about priorities, responsibilities and expectations when it comes to attendance.

“Employers should ensure that they have robust return to work procedures in place, part of which should be discussing in detail the reason for absence. Should a health issue be suggested, the employer could follow up by seeking to obtain a medical report; this will reveal whether or not the employee is properly addressing any underlying medical condition. Notes from all return to work meetings should be retained in case they need to be referred back to at future meetings with the same employee.”

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor as he continues to expand his horizons.
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