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Absence expected to spike after bank holiday

Employers should anticipate higher employee absence after bank holidays as some employees have "too much Sun and fun"

Staff absence is likely to spike today after the August bank holiday, according to software provider e-days.

Its State of Absence Report, which looked at data from 172,048 of its absence management system users, found that there was an 8.24% increase in employee absence on the day after the first May bank holiday in 2019 (6 May). While employee absence stood at 1,577 users on an average day in May 2019 this rose to 1,707 just after the bank holiday.

However, the impact of the second bank holiday (27 May) wasn’t felt as strongly (1,586 absences). This may be because employees had two public holidays in the same month, e-days stated.

Its report cited three likely reasons for absence after bank holidays: genuine sickness, a chance of a four-day break, and an over-indulgent weekend.

Individual sick days can cost a business approximately £117.80, based on the average UK annual salary (£29,588) divided by the number of working days in the year (261, minus weekends and statutory holidays).

The UK has one of the lowest public holiday entitlements in the world, second only to Mexico, according to research from Mercer.

Clare Avery, head of people and culture at e-days, said that while some employees could be genuinely unwell it is possible others are looking to enjoy a longer break.

"A key reason for sickness [absence] is, of course, sickness. Spending time with others in public spaces could contribute to an increase in minor illnesses. Yet – without trying to cast aspersions – human nature also says it's possible that more people fancy a four-day break, and others pull sickies from too much Sun and fun," she said.

“The important thing for employers is to learn when and why your employees are more likely to call in sick; as you may spot opportunities to make some lasting improvements to your workplace and your company culture.”

Speaking to HR magazine, Avery added that it's important HR is able to discuss the root causes of absence with employees. "Having a meaningful return-to-work process is a great way to help support individuals with genuine sickness issues and identify those that don’t," she said.

"This is more than just filling in a form. This is a genuine conversation between two grown-ups that explores the reasons for the absence and any ongoing support needed by the individual. Having data at your fingertips – like number of previous days taken, the frequency and the reasons – will also support these chats, especially for line managers who are concerned that the individual may be using sick leave as an opportunity for time off."

Employers should also remember that increased workloads over the Summer can lead to stress, she said: "Summer is a time where a lot of people tend take holidays but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a busy time workload-wise. Colleagues taking holidays can always result in additional work for those still in the office. Return-to-work discussions should try and get under the skin of the reason for the absence. Using exploratory questions during a relaxed conversation can help to dig deeper and help a line manager understand if the sickness is a symptom of other issues."