7 reasons your employees are taking sick days and how you can stop it

Employee absence is estimated to cost UK employers a shocking 11 billion every year about 600 per employee. Its a cost no employer wants to cover, and guess what? Its avoidable.

Jess Hildyard: BrightHR Content Strategy Manager

We’ve got the insight into why absences are occurring, and how to make your employees think twice about pulling that sickie.
1. They’re going for a job interview
Regular, out of the blue sick days from someone who normally seems fit and healthy is often a sign they’re accepting last-minute interview requests.
It’s a toughie. If they’re a great employee, you might want to intervene. If not, letting them seek other work could be of benefit in the long run. What you’ll certainly want to do is ensure any further interviews don’t interfere with their work.
2. They’re stressed
Too much stress at work isn’t just bad for absenteeism. It results in poor performance, a lack of productivity and negative attitudes, not to mention physical and mental health. 
People who are very stressed often can’t face the day, and may find calling in sick a more bearable option than coming to the office. Our ‘It Pays to Play’ study (LINK) found making work a fun place to be can have a positive impact on your bottom line by keeping your staff happy, healthy and motivated to give their best.
3. They have difficult relationships with their colleagues
Many workplaces thrive on the inclusion of people from all walks of life. Of course, this can also invite friction and tense relationships. Sometimes it’s clashing personalities between teams. Others times it can be discord with a manager. Sometimes (gasp!) it might be you.
If someone feels bullied by a co-worker, or in real angst about conflict with a colleague, they might go to any lengths to avoid interacting with them. Ask yourself if your office culture is failing somewhere, or if there are issues you can have a hand in resolving to make that person feel more confident in their work environment.
4. The working environment doesn’t motivate them to turn up
Our Pays to Play survey showed that employees who took part in fun activities in the workplace were ‘significantly more likely’ to feel a greater level of psychological wellbeing than those who hadn’t.
In short, if people feel better about where they work, the less likely they are to avoid turning up. You don’t have to be Google, but take stock of how your business compares to one where the employees get a little ‘me time’ or the odd treat — anything from dress down days to an office pool table or work night out.
5. You’re not making them feel valued
“But I’m paying their salary!” you cry. True, but what else are you doing to make the 37 working hours of their week worthwhile? If they’re feeling underappreciated, they’re far more likely to have a “screw you” mentality to their work — and you specifically.
Do you treat them with respect, congratulate them on good work or even engage them in idle chat? Being honest, do you even know their name? A little gratitude goes a long way, and making your employees feel appreciated is part and parcel of keeping up morale in a modern business.
6. They don’t understand it’s a problem
Obviously most people have a strong enough moral compass to know that pulling a sickie isn’t cool. But beyond the awkward phone call with obligatory “sick voice” and the return to work form, many employees simply won’t appreciate the impact their absence can have on a business.
Educate your employees. Show them why their contribution matters. How absences force their co-workers to work harder, or longer hours. Be candid about the effect on your bottom line. Handing over some responsibility might just turn around a serial offender.
7. Sometimes, they’re really sick
This might seem obvious but it’s easy to forget, especially when the pressure’s on or someone has to pick up an absentee’s work.
The best advice we can give is to take each case subjectively. Is it the first sick day they’ve had in five years? They’re probably genuinely ill. Fifth time this month? Maybe there’s another problem here, but don’t rule out sincere reasons for taking time off. They might need understanding and compassion from their employer to start getting better.

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