Solving absenteeism in the South African workplace

Understanding your employee needs and keeping them happy and healthy is the best way to combat absenteeism and limit its financial impact on your business.

A definite correlation between absenteeism and its effect on revenue has been observed.

And, statistics released last year by Occupational Care South Africa (OCSA) and Statistics South Africa show that roughly 15% of South African employees miss work every day, costing business between R12 billion and R16 billion a year.

Costs associated with absenteeism not only include the employee’s actual salary, but may also result in the company having to source alternative labour resources. More and more companies are having to do more with less staff and the impact of people not turning up for work has never been felt more than now.

Advances in technology and a deeper understanding of the factors that cause people to stay away from work habitually has made managing absenteeism easier. When absenteeism is managed correctly a company can save at least 10% of their monthly wage bill or costs.

Finding the cause of absenteeism provides lasting benefits for an organisation. It’s meaningless to dismiss an employee without getting to the root cause of their behaviour. Finding the reasons for high absenteeism in your organisation can help you eradicate it altogether.

One way of doing this is through data analysis and Comprehensive Absenteeism Reporting which can provide valuable insights. Insights includes: levels of absenteeism; associated costs; spreading of absenteeism within organisational and departmental levels and individual absenteeism profiles which can help pinpoint high risk employees.

There is also a strong relationship between wellness programmes and productivity and an organisation can equip line managers with the skills to address employee absenteeism and incapacity issues.

Changing employee behaviours through wellness programmes can be done with the assistance of Human Resources, Employee Health Wellbeing Programmes and, where necessary, appropriate referrals for psychological intervention. Often ignored, absenteeism is difficult to manage and can spread conflict and create a culture in which being absent at work is normalised.

If other employees witness on-going absenteeism, they may become despondent and this can cause a decline in morale. These factors can collectively lead to a decrease in the company’s productivity, and ultimately profits, especially for smaller businesses.

Absence from work is often a strong indicator that there underlying issues. It can hint at issues such as depression, workplace stress, having too much work, not having enough work, lack of motivation and financial stress.

The key to reducing absenteeism is having the right knowledge of your employees. Keeping employees happy, healthy and motivated is one of the key aspects of running a successful business.

More facts about absenteeism:

  • 15% of South African employees miss work every day;
  • One in three people who are absent are actually physically ill;
  • There’s been a 500% increase in absenteeism since 2001;
  • There is a 35% under reporting in absence, as line managers don’t always report staff who are absent;
  • South Africans have an average of 10 days per year vs the US who average 2,5 days of absenteeism per year; and
  • The public sector has a higher absenteeism rate than the private sector.

By Lutgen Terblanche

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice.  Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)