Happy staff have less time off sick, so why when staff surveys report rock-bottom morale are absenteeism levels falling? The reason fewer staff are throwing a sickie is that employers have has introduced tough new policies and procedures to sack people with poor attendance records. So is it better to be feared than loved?
‘Employees are not happy. They are disillusioned with management; anxious about reorganisations and redundancies’
Happy staff are more productive, they take less time off sick, so organisations should take steps to increase employee’s job satisfaction. This is the recommendation from Investors in People following research into staff health and wellbeing.
The trouble is employees are not happy. They are disillusioned with management; anxious about reorganisations, redundancies and changes to working practices; they are frustrated by budget cuts, service reductions and efficiency targets. So the most effective way of reducing absenteeism is to introduce tougher policies and procedures to sack people with poor attendance records.
The research found that 54 per cent of workers say their boss does not care about their health as long as they get the job done.
The research also showed that job satisfaction is directly related to the number of sick days as those who describe themselves as happy in their role are less likely to call in sick. Nearly three in 10 unhappy workers also say they embellish the truth about being ill.
So if unhappy staff are more likely to throw a sickie and a high proportion of staff are unhappy, why are public sector organisations reporting success in reducing absenteeism? The answer lies in the type of absenteeism. People who skive take the odd day or two off work when they are not really too ill to attend but simply have had enough. The sickness absenteeism that has been reduced is long term sickness.
‘If you want to tackle absenteeism then change the perception that managers don’t care about the health and wellbeing of their staff’
In the past, people off sick for more than two or three weeks were allowed to drift with the result that a small number of staff were still absent for over six months with no incentive to return until they went on half-pay and in the knowledge that they would be paid for up to 12 months.
A “get tough” policy has resulted in a proactive response, which translates into sacking people after three months if there is no prospect of an immediate return. In practice a broken leg or an operation would result in a medical assessment with a realistic timeframe for a return to work agreed with the employee. If the diagnoses were depression or a bad back then neither the employee nor their doctor can offer a timescale for returning so their employment would be terminated. The result is a significant drop in the absence statistics.
Peace and love
But if you want to tackle short term absences love may be more effective than fear.
Paul Devoy, head of Investors in People, says: “Organisations need to see staff health and well-being as crucial to their business and staff retention. Our research shows that happier staff are less likely to take time off sick. What’s more, companies offering health and well-being perks will see real business benefits. Investors in People is encouraging businesses to consider how they treat their staff to ensure they have the happiest and most productive workforce.”
Another way of expressing this is if you want to improve your absence statistics, sack people once they have been off for three months. If, however, you want to tackle absenteeism then change the perception that managers don’t care about the health and wellbeing of their staff.