More than 3.6 million – 12.5% of the working population – are currently off work sick, according to FirstCare, the absence management provider. Its managing director, Aaron Ross, is referring to the situation as “the closest thing to a pandemic that employers will have seen for years”.
The company is receiving 30% more calls than normal, equating to one in every 24 employees. Most of this increase can be attributed to gastrointestinal illnesses – related to the Norovirus – as the number of calls for these kind of afflictions has doubled this week, compared to figures recorded five weeks ago. Poor weather and coughs and colds have also played their part.
“This is the worst period of sickness we have ever seen and it comes at a very bad time for employers,” says Ross. “All of this will have a knock-on effect on those staff who are at work as they will be put under more pressure to cover absent colleagues. And it should be a wake-up call for businesses that don’t have contingency plans for high sickness rates.”
The Novovirus bug causes vomiting and diarrhoea, and symptoms last for about four days.