Employee absence likely to spike after August Bank Holiday – 7 employer tips to help

Employee absence is likely to spike immediately after the August bank holiday, according to trend data from e-days – and employers are advised to take action to reduce impacts and costs.

The data, from e-days absence management system, shows an 8.24% increase on absence on the Tuesday after the first May bank holiday. Overall, in May 2019, employee absence was at an average of 1577. However, on the Tuesday after the first bank holiday, there were far more absences – 1,707. The impact for the second bank holiday wasn’t as high (1586 absences) potentially because employees gained two public holidays in one month.

Individual sick days can cost a business approximately £117.80, calculated by e-days from the average UK annual salary (£29,588)1 divided by the number of actual working days in the year (261, minus weekends and statutory holidays).

According to the State of Absence report, which measures data from 172,048 users of the e-days absence management system, there are three likely reasons for absence after bank holidays: genuine sickness, a chance of a four-day break and an over-indulgent weekend.

Clare Avery, head of people and culture of e-days, says:

“A key reason for sickness, is of course, sickness. Spending time with others in public spaces could contribute to an increase in minor illnesses. Yet without trying to cast aspersions, human nature also says its possible that more people fancy a four day break, and others pull sickies from ‘too much sun and fun’.

“The important thing for employers is to learn when and why your employees are more likely to call in sick, as you may spot opportunities to make some lasting improvements to your workplace and your company culture.”

To improve workplace wellbeing and reduce absence, e-days suggests understanding the reasons behind absence: 

  1. Overall, keep on top of absence stats: Clear reporting helps employers to understand their specific absence trends. Understanding data, employee demographics and behaviours means its possible to make strategic actions to support employee wellbeing and reduce absence costs.
  2. If absence data is showing Bank Holiday blues are a problem in your business – and it’s not surprising as it impacts the most loyal employees’ determination and motivation – it’s worth considering an engaging welcome back incentive, something fun and lively. Why not set up a competition prize for the best or funniest Bank Holiday activity, free coffee or doughnuts, or a team prize for least amount of absences?
  3. Return to work interviews: If an employee took time off for stress-related reasons, talk to them when they return to work. Ask them for their thoughts on the source of the stress, to understand if it’s possible to help.
  4. Make flexible working possible: If employees can do their jobs remotely, let them. Remote working means less time and money spent on stressful commutes, and more time spent in an environment where employees can feel comfortable. Remote working also means that employees won’t miss any days when the weather’s too extreme for them to safely travel.
  5. Don’t let work get in the way of life: Offer generous leave for new parents. Make it clear that you’ll be willing to accommodate employees if they need to take time off, for whatever reason – from new born babies to dental appointments.
  6. Discourage overwork: Don’t pressure employees into working too hard. Make it clear that all work should stop at finish time. If a particularly tight deadline or demanding project demands extra time, offer TOIL, so that employees can make up the time elsewhere. Overtime should always be the exception – it’s not normal, and it shouldn’t be expected.
  7. Remove common sources of workplace stress: Mental health specialists Verywell Mind put together a list of some of the biggest causes of stress in the workplace. For instance, many employees feel stressed because it’s unclear what exactly what’s expected of them. So make everyone’s job responsibilities, and business expectations, as clear as possible. If anyone’s job requirements are going to change, make sure the changes are signposted, in writing, as early as possible.