How can businesses prepare for the biggest ‘sickie day’ of the year?

A huge 141.4 million sick days were taken in the UK in 2018, and sickness absence is on the rise.

Research has shown that Monday is the most prolific day for sickness-related absence, with over 25 per cent of sick days landing on a Monday.

In fact, the first Monday of February has over the years become the most notorious when it comes to a no show at work – and has been dubbed National Sickie Day, which this year is marked on February 3; further escalating the so-called ‘winter blues’.

Recently, Karen Dykes, recruitment partner here at Anne Corder Recruitment, offered up some thoughts and tips about this, why it may occur, and how business owners and managers can put in measures to help employees through a challenging time of year.

Karen said: “One of the factors which is thought to contribute to this is the first payday since Christmas. People may have been out celebrating all weekend, and are feeling a little delicate on Monday.

“Another theory is that people tend to re-think their career path in January, and in fact a lot of these sickies are actually to attend interviews. These factors combined have been linked to the estimated 350,000 absences from work on the first Monday of February last year.”

Employees lost an average of 4.4 working days in 2018 because of sickness or injury. A total of 141.4 million sick days were taken compared with 131.5 million in 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics

Promoting well-being and a positive working environment, however, can help cut the £5 billion a year lost through absence – says Anne Corder Recruitment – which also recognises that stress plays a big part in taking days off work.

According to research, over 11 million days of work are lost each year because of workplace stress. This can be down to ‘January (winter) Blues’ or the feeling of financial insecurity just after Christmas, but employers can take simple steps to rejuvenate and empower their team.

Not only does stress impact individuals, it also impacts colleagues and families, too. It also impacts on employers, with costs relating to sickness absence, replacement staff and lost production.

Karen added: “Employers do, however, have a legal duty to protect their workers from stress in the workplace by carrying out a risk assessment and acting on it.”

Stress can be triggered by so many different factors, but industry figures estimate approximately three in five UK workers consider their workloads to be excessive, often with daily struggles to meet deadlines.

Sometimes, people may be experiencing stress at home, which they then bring in to work with them. Although employers are not legally responsible for stress that is caused by someone’s home environment, well-managed organisations will have arrangements in place that allow them to address it. This may include access to counselling services, and tweaking working hours to help them through challenging times.

Some tips and advice for businesses on addressing, and measures to prevent, stress in the workplace:

  • A regular delivery of fresh fruit
  • Supplement yoga, gym or mindfulness classes
  • Encourage cycle to work initiatives with rewards for a more active commute
  • Introduce flexible working arrangements or remote/home-based working

The four most common reasons for sickness absence in 2018 were minor illnesses such as coughs and colds (responsible for 27.2 per cent of days lost); musculoskeletal problems (19.7 per cent); “other” reasons including accidents, diabetes, infectious diseases and poisonings (13.7per cent) and mental health conditions including stress, anxiety and depression (12.4 per cent) – according to ONS.