Absenteeism hitting small businesses’ profitability, survey finds

More than seven in ten SMEs are suffering financially because of absenteeism, and many believe the situation could be improved, according to a new report.

Research by Moorepay found that 71 per cent of small- and medium-sized businesses believe high rates of absenteeism are affecting their profitability.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show the average UK employee takes 4.3 days off per year, and 49 per cent of SME owners say their staff take more than five.

14 per cent even report that each of their employees takes seven or more days off sick.

However, even though 72 per cent of small businesses believe that policies like flexible working, time off for family and return to work programmes could reduce absenteeism by 11 per cent or more, few are actually introducing these initiatives.

53 per cent offer no flexibility around time off for family issues, for example, while 46 per cent do not give their employees leeway for medical appointments.

And while 91 per cent of SMEs do track staff absences, 39 per cent do this using pen and paper or a spreadsheet, leaving the process open to human error.

The survey also found that while annual leave and sick days are commonly tracked by small businesses, less common reasons for absence often slip through the net.

“According to the National Institute for Healthcare Excellence, it is estimated that absenteeism costs the UK economy £15 billion a year,” said Lisa Gillespie, director of HR services at Moorepay, commenting on the findings.

“And yet many SMEs have inaccurate or incomplete data on staff absences and are unable to accurately assess how much it is costing their business. Those that recognise the business and financial implications are often spurred on to take action.

“Having insights into absenteeism and taking positive steps to reduce it can have a huge impact on business productivity and therefore profitability – something no business can afford to ignore.”

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