Employee absence from work has received greater attention in recent years as employers have an increasing duty of care for their staff. However most companies are all too aware of the direct cost of sickness absence which includes: statutory sick pay, occupational sick pay, paying overtime and organising temporary cover. There are also the knock-on effects which include lower staff morale, mistakes being made by staff covering other jobs and lower productivity.

Employers lost an average of 2.9% of their working time to employee absence in 2016, a recent report has found. This equates to around 6.6 days per employee, and represents a significant increase on the figure from 2015 which stood at 5.8 days. Providing cover for absent employees represents a significant cost, which employers estimate to be £455 per employee per year![1] 


Interestingly we see absence rates increase with organisation size. Smaller organisations (those with less than 100 employees) lose just 1.8% of working time (4 days per employee) in comparison to larger employers where the figure stands at 3.8% of working time, or 8.8 days. The report found no definitive cause for this variation however it could be that those who work for smaller companies are more engaged with their business and possibly make more effort to turn up knowing that the impact of their absence will be keenly felt in a small team.


Almost a third of companies can only absorb the cost of sickness absence for a maximum of a week.[2] So it’s important to think about how you’re going to manage it, here are some options:

Fit Note

If your employee is off sick for more than 7 days in a row (including non-working days), they must give you a Fit Note. If the doctor has indicated that they ‘may be fit for work’, it’s a good idea to arrange to meet them and talk about how you can help them come back to work.

Attendance Incentives

You could offer staff incentives to encourage higher attendance levels and discourage unnecessary absence. These can take the form of cash rewards or allowing an extra day’s holiday for anyone with 100% attendance.

Flexible working

This allows staff to work from home or shift their working hours around. It can mean staff have a better work life balance and reduce the chances of them developing stress-related illnesses.

Income protection

This insurance can help you manage long-term absences by providing sick or injured staff with a monthly salary so you don’t have to.

Healthcare Cash Plans

Unlike other insurance products, these are designed to be used regularly to recover essential, everyday healthcare expenses such as optical costs or dental treatment. For those earning lower salaries, a cash plan that can help them afford to look after themselves can be really invaluable.


No matter your company size, staff are going to be sick from time to time. Most employees feel bad about letting down their colleagues and most employers are sympathetic, however it’s best to have clear plans and policies so everyone knows where they stand. To discuss your own company circumstances and how we may be able to assist please contact us on 0800 048 0150.


[1] Employee absence rates on the rise, viewed on, 15/08/2017

[2] Absence Management: a simple guide, viewed on, 15/08/2017

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