How small businesses can reduce the cost of sickness

A recent report by the FSB has revealed that sickness absence is costing small businesses £1,500 a year.

Small businesses are not affected by long term sickness on a frequent basis, but when long term sickness does occur, the impact can be huge and costs may be high. The ‘Voice of Small Business’ survey panel which is run by the FSB reveals that small businesses have an average of 2.4 days sickness per staff member – which is considerably lower than the UK average of 7.7 days per staff member. One quarter of businesses reported that they had not experienced any sickness during the period. And, interestingly, 81% claimed that they have not experienced any long term sickness in their staff. Even so, in the previous year absence through sickness has cost UK businesses on average £1,500 a year. In 9% of cases, sickness costs for small businesses average over £5,000 a year.

The FSB has called for the government to do more to assist small businesses with the costs of employee sickness as well as to simplify the Statutory Sick Pay scheme to reduce the administrative burden.

But, are there any steps you can take to minimise the cost of sickness in your firm?

Yes, there a quite a few steps that can be taken to reduce the chance of absence through sickness.

One important step is to ensure that you have a good quality sickness and wellbeing policy within your employee handbook. A good quality policy will include the following things to help reduce the risk of sickness:
1.) Sickness notification procedure so employees know who to contact at the start of and during a period of sickness
2.) Self-Certification form which requires employees to account for short periods of illness.
3.) Return to work interview form which can be used to discuss the employee’s illness with them on their return from work.

Another important feature is your holiday policy. Ensure that you have a legally compliant policy in place that provides staff with their statutory holiday entitlement. Your staff use their holidays to recharge their batteries and to de-stress their systems. This should lead to lower levels of stress related absence and greater productivity. In small businesses where levels of commitment can be extraordinarily high, staff may neglect to use all their holiday entitlement in any given year. In the long run, this will be bad for both of you and the business. It is best to encourage your staff to use all their holiday entitlement.
Another area to look at is staff well-being. While it is each staff member’s personal responsibility to maintain their state of wellbeing, you can make wellbeing a part of everyday working life. As a business you may be able to arrange a special corporate rate gym membership for your employees which will encourage them to keep fit and improve their general sense of well-being.

The working environment is also crucial to your employee’s health and wellbeing and productivity. Try and create a healthy office environment. This could include ensuring there is enough natural sunlight, plants, sufficient space, relaxation area etc… If you search online, there will be plenty of guidance in this area.

A good diet can also help to improve an employee’s wellbeing. As a business you could promote healthy eating by arranging a weekly delivery of fresh fruit to the office for all staff.

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