Press Release: 22 August 2013

Direct Health Solutions announce the release of the 2013 Absence Management and Well-being Report, the 6th edition of their annual survey of absenteeism levels in Australia. Over 108 organisations employing approximately 450,000 employees participated in the survey, which found that absenteeism levels (sick and carers leave) rose to 8.93 days per employee per annum. Over 88 million days are lost to the Australia economy due to absenteeism, at a cost of $27.5 billion per annum in sick leave costs and lost productivity. Organisations who responded to the survey reveal the cost to their business was $2741 per employee per annum.

“The phenomenal cost of absenteeism is a labour costs that can be significantly reduced if organisations put the right measures in place. This survey highlights the fact that absenteeism levels are way too high, and that organisations need to act and adopt proven strategies to improve how companies manage sick leave, and enhance employee wellbeing at work,” says Paul Dundon, Managing Director of Direct Health Solutions. Direct Health Solutions help businesses cut absenteeism by an average of 25%.

The 2013 survey found that 63% of organisations had absenteeism levels higher than the average target of 6.9 days per employee per annum. 75% of respondents believed the absence levels stayed the same or rose in the last 12 months.

Telecommunications and Utilities Sector had the highest levels of absence, at 11.5 days, followed by the Contact Centre/Call centre Industry, who had 10.9 days. Absenteeism costs the call centre industry over $1 billion per annum. Absence rose 17% in Transport and Logistics, and Healthcare absenteeism climbed to 9.0 days annually.

There was good news for taxpayers and the Government sector this year. Public Servants took 9.3 days of sick leave, down 11% from last year. Public Servants now take only 5% more time off than the private sector.
However in the public sector, people were more likely to go to work unwell,  or have a “Wickie”, a phrase coined by DHS to indicate staff going to work sick. The public sector reported staff were two times more likely to go to work unwell than in the private sector.
64% of public sector organisations also reported an increase in the levels of mental ill health (Stress/anxiety/depression) at work, nearly twice the level of the private sector. Queensland and South Australia had the highest levels of sick leave, at 11.1 days and 10.9 days respectively. Employees in the ACT took 10.6 days annually. NSW (8.3 days) and VIC (8.7 days) were both below the national average. Organisations where there was a culture of taking a sickie lost 10 days per year, compared to just 8.0 days in companies that did not have a sickie culture.

“ Absenteeism, either for genuine reasons or not, is very disruptive for businesses, and needs to be handled well”, says Dundon. “ The advances in absence management HR technology now make the process of monitoring and managing sick leave so much easier, particularly for medium to large businesses.” There was also a strong relationship between rising turnover and rising absenteeism, indicating a relationship with employee fit for their job and attendance. “It is quite conceivable that employees who are in jobs they don’t like, that their physical and mental wellbeing will be adversely affected, and this will mean greater levels of sick leave.”

Some Key Facts:

  • The median was 8.0 days per employee per annum
  • Manual workers took 9.2 days compared to 7.8 for non-manual workers
  • 71% of organisations consider absenteeism to be a significant cost to their business.
  • Illness (e.g. cold/flu, headaches, gastro and mental health) and home and family responsibilities are primary reasons for absenteeism.
  • Over 50% of respondents consider one day absences to be most problematic to manage.
  • 18% of respondents believed there was an increase in employees going to work unwell (we call it a Wickie –a working sickie). This was twice as likely to occur in the public sector compared to the private sector.
  • 44% of respondents reported that the incident of stress/anxiety/depression related absence increased in the last twelve months. 64% of public sector organisations reported an increase.
  • 66% of organisations have a formal strategy for managing absenteeism

The most effective practices used to manage absenteeism are:

  • Having return to work interviews with employees
  • Managing employees who hit trigger points or high levels of absence
  • Outsourcing and centralising absence recording and employee support to a specialist absence management provider
  • One it two organisations provide training to managers on how to manage absence
  • 60% of respondents believe that requiring medical certificates reduce absenteeism
  • 42% or organisations believe absenteeism is under-reported in their organization
  • The greatest source of stress for employees is not actually work load, it is non-work factors, such as family responsibilities

Contact us to purchase the survey, which costs $495 + GST.