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Absent Minded
Employers are paying the price for absenteeism, but it can be controlled

Many employers would be shocked to learn how much absenteeism costs their business.

The Conference Board of Canada’s recent Missing in Action report found that the typical Canadian worker missed 9.3 days on the job in 2011, with direct costs averaging 2.4% of gross annual payrolls. Put another way, the problem translates into a $16.6-billion drag on the Canadian economy. The challenge is also growing, Statistics Canada adds. A decade ago, the average worker missed just 8.5 days a year for personal reasons.

The price of absenteeism is not limited to salaries or Short Term Disability payments for missing workers, either. Indirect costs involve everything from lower productivity to lost business opportunities. Absences can even add to the workloads of other employees, contributing to the stress which weakens morale and increases future benefits costs. (The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine reports that typical healthcare costs are 50% higher among workers who report high levels of stress.)

As significant as the problem may be, a mere 46% of Canadian companies formally track workplace absences, and only 15% calculate the related costs. But there is a solution. While information like this was once limited to large companies, dedicated software packages such as the one used by the Callery Group can put these powerful details in the hands of any employer. This can help to focus HR strategies and maximize the returns from any investment.

Effective solutions to absenteeism should actually involve three key pillars – formal health risk assessments, wellness programs, and Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). Consider the example of a workplace where the health risk assessments find more than half of workers have an unusually high Body Mass Index. The wellness program might then focus on encouraging healthy eating and supporting group exercise programs, while Employee Assistance Programs could help those who struggle with eating disorders.

Wondering how something like an exercise program tackles absenteeism and makes a difference on your bottom line? The Alberta Centre for Active Living found in 2003 that active employees take 27% fewer sick days and report 14 to 25% fewer disability days than their coworkers.

Of course, prevention is only part of the cure. Once workers are on sick leave or Long Term Disability, the key is to tap into the support which can get people back to work as quickly as possible, helping to control future premiums for employee benefits and retaining all the skills that an experienced worker can offer.

Any delays can have long-term consequences. The National Association of Disability Evaluating Professionals found that half of the employees who do not return to work within six months will never return, and just 20% return to work after being off the job for a year. Quite simply, the longer someone remains off the job, the more they begin to see themselves as being disabled rather than an active member of the workforce.

Formal “return to work” programs still need to carefully review medical information on a case-by-case basis, to ensure that employees do not return to a job before they are ready. The chance to reassign someone to a different task will involve an open line of communication between employees, managers and medical teams alike.

But the efforts will play an important role in reducing the costs of absenteeism which will place a heavy burden on any business.

Top Tips:

  • Begin formally tracking employee absences to see how much they really cost your business. Your benefits provider should have software to help.
  • Ask your benefits provider to focus wellness programs and Employee Assistance Programs to tackle the issues unique to your workplace.
  • Embrace programs designed to help injured employees return to work as quickly as possible. They will help retain valuable skills and control future benefits premiums.

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All rights reserved. All of the content herein is the sole property of the Callery Group, and may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in a retrieval system - in whole or in part - without the written permission of the Callery Group. Links to the originating article at www.callerygroup.com are permitted.

The Buzz Bits
Miscellaneous links to interesting benefits information

Workforce Management: Achieving business objectives through absence management

Investing in employees’ health at work improves the bottom line for everyone, studies prove: National Post

Absenteeism costs Canadian firms billions: Benefits Canada

Doing it Right: Benefits Canada

Changing perspectives about benefits plans: Your Workplace

Workforce management – Achieving business objectives through absence management: Shepell FGI

"How I hire" – Focus on personality: By Richard Branson

Healthcare system not sustainable: Benefits Canada

Tweed mom must battle Ottawa – and cancer: Toronto Sun

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