Almost all of us have done it at some point or another – pulled a sickie – it’s tempting if a job is not demanding enough, or too demanding, or if the work-life balance is overwhelming. There are many reasons why employees take days off when they don’t really need to, but one thing is for certain, it costs UK businesses billions each year. An estimated £9 billion is lost annually to companies whose employees suddenly develop ‘flu on Monday mornings and it pays companies well to track and monitor absence patterns to see if there are any unusual (or all-too predictable) trends.

Investing in time-measuring tools, like Cascade’s HR software, is one of the best ways to highlight patterns or trends in absenteeism. It works discreetly and unobtrusively so that any malingering employees won’t feel the need to polish up their act just in time to avoid being fingered by HR.

A report by auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers revealed that out of 2,000 employees interviewed, 32 per cent bunked off from work due to hangovers, while 11 per cent thought that “Because Monday…” was a valid excuse to ignore their alarm clock. Excuses range from the commonplace stomach or ‘flu bug to the more exotic ones like the male menopause.

The £9 billion loss to UK businesses is almost certainly a huge underestimation, so companies need to crack down on unauthorised absences. To do this they need to use suitable technology to monitor and record them. Failure to accurately record sick days not only harms the businesses themselves, but it can discourage and demoralise the staff who do turn up and often get lumbered with extra work.

Another factor that harms businesses’ bottom lines is the cost of sourcing replacement workers to cover absences, or paying permanent staff overtime to make up for the lost hours. This is a sinkhole of time and money and can make up to 35 per cent of payroll expenses, and this is before companies take into account the morale of the more productive staff members and the extra time spent by managerial staff in plugging the gaps.

British workers are somewhat notorious for pulling sickies, whether genuine or not, with UK staff members “enjoying” 6.6 sick days each year, compared to 2.8 days for Asia Pacific workers and 3.8 days for American employees.

None of this is to say that reducing absenteeism has to be punitive. In fact, modern working culture embraces concepts like duvet days and flexible working. Adopting an understanding, even slightly indulgent, attitude towards clocking-in can go a long way. If employees feel they can ask for the occasional duvet day, or work from home, they will be less inclined to take these entitlements without real permission.

If every employee is able to take extra time off and there are no “usual suspects” making themselves conspicuous by their absence, then this fosters team cohesion and a sense of joint purpose. This positive form of peer pressure can only be good for morale and numbers.


An infographic by highlights how much the flu costs US businesses and employees: