Employers Struggle to Control Worker Absences

December 13, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A no-show employee can cost an employer a bundle of money regardless of whether those calling in sick are actually ill.

According to IOMA’s Report on Managing Benefits Plans, the average per-employee cost of absenteeism climbed to an all-time high of $789 per year in 2002, up from $755 in 2001. The absenteeism rate declined slightly to 2.1 % from 2.2% in 2001.

The 2002 CCH Unscheduled Absence Survey found that in 67% of unscheduled absences, employees cited reasons other than illness. Some 33% of absences were actually caused by the worker’s illness.

With 83% of the 333 companies surveyed believing that unscheduled absenteeism is likely to stay the same or get worse in the next two years, many employers are turning to work-life programs and active control of worker absences to keep the trend under control, according to the IOMA report.

The most common work-life programs reported by the employers polled by CCH include:

  • employee assistance plans (68%)
  • wellness programs (54%)
  • alternative work arrangements (53%)
  • leave for school functions (52%).

Ranking Programs’ Effectiveness

On the scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most effective, human-resources professionals who were polled rank alternative work arrangements (3.6), compressed work week (3.5), leave for school functions (3.3) and on-site child-care (3.3) among this year’s top work-life programs.

Employers appear to be searching for the right mix of work-life programs, with the number of such programs in use on the rise. In the past two years, the average number of work-life programs used by organizations has increased from 3.4 in 2000 to 7.3 in 2002, according to the survey results.

The paid leave bank, also known as paid time off (PTO), is the most effective absence control program, according to survey respondents. PTO received a 3.6 effectiveness rating on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being most effective, according to the survey.

In addition to a paid leave bank, other programs receiving a high effectiveness rating for controlling absences included disciplinary action (3.4) and buy back programs (3.4), which compensate employees for allotted but unused time.