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Do you know how much absenteeism costs your company?

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Sickness is costing UK companies more than 1,000 per employee every year.

The figure for absenteeism is at least £662 per employee, according to Hewitt Associates, although this rises by as much as 60% once indirect costs such as lost productivity, overtime and recruitment are included.

The survey showed that many companies could be underestimating the extent of absenteeism in their organisation because less than two thirds of respondents said they properly record it.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest causes of absence were found to be flu, musculo-skeletal injuries and stress and depression. More than half of employers (56%) stress is an issue in their organisation - but only a third provide stress coaching for managers.

James Kenrick, head of UK corporate healthcare consulting at Hewitt Associates, said: "The report makes it clear that stress is predicted to be the main cause of employee ill-health in the next three years. If the UK economy worsens, stress levels can undoubtedly be expected to rise further, making this the biggest threat to employee health in the UK."

Hewitt Associates, however, estimate that if employers implement employee wellbeing schemes such as gym membership or healthy eating programmes, they will see a return on investment of £3 for every £1 that they spend.

Kenrick added: "Reducing absenteeism is the ultimate goal for employers. To achieve this, they need to approach the problem from a total health management perspective. This means collecting quality data on the reasons behind absenteeism and developing a co-ordinated programme to encourage good health in their workforce."