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Public sector absences at 8.7 days a year

Absence in the public sector remains higher than the average for the wider economy, a new survey from the CIPD and Simplyhealth shows.

The organisations said that flexible working could help employees to better balance their work-life balance.

The new research found that overall absence has increased to an average 7.6 days per employee each year, and is still highest in the public sector at 8.7 days. But 85% of employers reported that they had adjusted working patterns to tackle absence and 70% said flexible working has had a positive impact on absence levels. This could also improve employee motivation and engagement.

Just under half of absences in the public sector are short-term, and flexible working could be used to help manage this. The increase in elderly people in the workforce may also need different ways of working, the survey found.

Dr. Jill Miller, CIPD research adviser and co-author of the report said: “It’s fantastic to see employers recognising the benefits of increased flexible working opportunities. And it’s not just about benefits for employers in terms of being able to attract and retain talented people – over 50% of employees report that flexible working helps them achieve a better work–life balance generally, also citing that it makes them healthier, more productive and reduces the amount of time that they take off sick.

“Changing demographics, including more people with caring responsibilities and the abolition of the default retirement age, means more people are looking to work untraditional hours. Offering more flexible working opportunities also helps to respond to the needs of the UK’s ageing workforce, in which older employees will increasingly need and want to work in different ways and with different hours as they move towards retirement.

“It’s really important for businesses to recognise new ways of working to support a diverse workforce and to retain talent. Hopefully employees will now be able to better balance their work and home demands.”

Helen Dickinson, spokesperson for Simplyhealth UK said:  “Getting flexible working right can lead to higher motivation levels, better productivity and increased flexibility. Balancing both the needs of the company and the employee often results in happier and healthier employees and lower absence levels.

“The role of the line manager is essential. Flexible working works well when line managers and employers are aware of the different lifestyle demands employees may have. By helping employees to manage those demands better and perhaps adapting how, when or where the employee works can help to achieve greater commitment and motivation. As well as the employer’s role, employees must recognise that flexibility is two way and being adaptable to help the business succeed too. It is about building an environment where the employee can have open and honest conversations about the challenges they are facing.”

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Mike S   14/10/2013 at 15:07

Public sector absences at 8.7 days a year. You say this like its a bad thing.... Given that public sector workers include teachers, teaching assistants, nurses and the medical profession in general, I'm surprised that it is so low. Spend some time in the average classroom and observe the general cleanliness of children and you'll see what I mean and of course there are those children who no matter how ill their parents still pack them off to school. School staff come down with no end of illnesses and complaints brought about by the germ incubator nature of schools and exacerbated by the enormous stresses of the environment imposed by Gove's 'education change madness,' a stasi like Ofsted that bears no resemblance to 'improving education' and the general problems of teaching children in the current social climate. Then there are the nursing and medical professions. They deal with germs and infection every day. No matter how diligent they are with cleanliness regimes germs and infections are going to take their toll. Do you want to be treated by sick medical staff. I should also mention the police and fire service who are also subject to stresses, infection and injury. 8.7 days absence... I'm surprised that it is so low.

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