The number of British firms reporting high rates of staff sickness has decreased to less than half the rate experienced in European countries such as Germany and France. A Wolverhampton Business School study which analyzed 2,600 companies in three countries, unveiled that the companies which had high rates of staff sickness fell from 17% (2004) to 9% (2009). On the contrary, Germany’s percentage increased from 17% in 2004 to 29% in 2009 while France’s percentage fell only slightly from 24% to 21%.
The drivers justifying the decreasing low levels of staff sickness in the UK were found to be:
- Less overtime worked, with overtime earning extra pay rather than time off in lieu
- More profit-sharing among staff
- Less variation on workload than in German and French firms
- Positive working atmosphere
On the other hand, the high staff sickness rate reported in Germany is reportefly associated with factors such as:
- Generous sick pay
- Laws which make sacking or disciplining staff hard for employers
- High rates of staff working overtime (overtime is usually compensated with time off instead of extra pay)
- More workload variation (more than half of firms in Germany in 2009 had to tackle large changes in workload at short notice)
Besides these results, other research conducted by insurance firm Hiscox reveals that entrepreneurs in Britain tend to work shorter hours than their counterparts in Europe and the States. While the average small business owner works 41.1 hours per week, the British work the shortest week at 37.6 hours – six hours less than their German counterparts. Britons were most likely to include lunching, networking and attending to emails out of hours in their own perception of what constitutes work.
Workplace absence is not merely important because it relates to a company’s productivity and efficiency. It is also an issue connected to profit making. Findings suggest that employees’ absence from work costs British businesses £32bn a year while Germany and France suffer even bigger losses.
Another interesting fact that should provoke thought is the extent to which workplace climate and culture can boost employees’ coherence and help reduce sickness. Apparently, this was the case in the UK but also don’t forget that British entrepreneurs enjoy more sociable working hours, something that could positively affect their well being.
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