Ill Absent Workers A Pressing HR Issue

May 25, 2004 ( - Ill workers who stay out of the office between one and five days - so-called incidental absence - account for between a third and a half of all lost work days, a new survey found.

The survey by the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) found that while corporate managers know incidental absence is a growing problem, they typically lack the resources to effectively address it.

“Incidental absence is a powerful way to measure the degree of employee commitment to a company and its goals,” said Sharon Kaleta, DMEC’s CEO. “Now that the labor market is improving, many employees may go from taking a day off to changing jobs. Reducing incidental absence — which means establishing a present and committed workforce — is a critical component to maintain the productivity gains of the past decade.”

According to DMEC and Nucleus Solutions – an Arlington, Virginia firm which consults with clients on how best to deal with employee absence issues – there is growing awareness of incidental absence in the workplace:

  • 30% believe incidental absence is increasing; 4% believe it is decreasing
  • 90% believe incidental absence is a manageable problem
  • 60% indicate upper management recognizes incidental absence is a significant drag on productivity

Along with the growth in awareness of incidental absence as a significant cost center is recognition that managers often lack the tools to address it:

  • 13.5% indicate incidental absence ranks in the top 30% of HR priorities for senior executives
  • 25% are increasing their budget to control incidental absence
  • Of 30 potential solutions to reduce incidental absence, only 16% of the solutions were used by more than 80% of respondents.

200 human resources and operations managers from 31 industries were surveyed. The DMEC is a trade group specializing in disability, absence and productivity management processes.