Understanding workplace demographics and local factors key to managing sickness absence in a downturn – PwC response to TUC survey

Published at 10:12 AM on 13 February 2009

Understanding the DNA of your workforce and taking into account local social, economic and cultural factors will be critical to managing sickness absence and discouraging the unwell from attending work during times of economic uncertainty, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC). 

TUC figures released today found more than half the 1,400 people surveyed went to work even though they were ill last year - a minority cited pressure from their boss or concerns about losing pay as the reason.

Ian Tomlinson-Roe, partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, commented:

“While organisations’ investment in sickness absence management has been rewarded with a steady decline in the average number of employee sick days over the last decade, the financial and productivity impacts of such absences remain significant issues for UK business.

“The downturn brings another layer of complexity – with job losses hitting the headlines daily, people may think twice about calling in sick. Organisations must pay extra attention to the messages they’re sending their staff to avoid inadvertently encouraging the sick and infectious into the workplace. Before celebrating the success of any absence management programmes over the next year or so, companies must carefully consider whether improvements in attendance are occurring for the right reasons and are sustainable.”

Strong data and information, together with management capability, are the foundations of effective absence management programmes but PwC warns more sophisticated approaches are needed to get to the root of the issue.

Ian Tomlinson-Roe, partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, commented:

“Absence patterns and causes vary across sectors and more enlightened organisations already consider the various internal factors at play when trying to understand absence, for example, the health risk factors associated with particular job roles.

“The next level is understanding the impact local issues such as education, housing and demographics have on health, absenteeism and individuals’ experiences of work. Examining both the most powerful internal and external drivers of absence means the most effective practices to control their effects can be put in place.” 


For more information contact:

Lydia Ruffles
Financial Services, PR Manager, PwC 
Tel:+44 (0)20 7212 1798 
Mobile:07966 319 780 


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