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When it Comes to Absenteeism, the British are Getting Religion

September 8, 2004
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U.K. employers are increasingly aware of the costs of absenteeism, and several companies are trying to reduce the time it takes employees to return to work from injuries.

The Confederation of British Industries estimates that absenteeism costs employers about $19 billion (U.S. dollars) in 2003. British Airways, for example, canceled 30 flights in August because the company was "unable to cope with unexpected absences," according to Business Insurance.

Royal Mail Group, which is owned by the government, is giving employees who don’t take any time off for illnesses over a six-month period a chance to win a new car. Kevin Fairbotham, Royal Mail’s head of risk management, tells Business Insurance that his company’s employees miss 12 days off for illnesses annually—double the national average.

For some companies, the first step is simply getting their hands around the scope of the problem. Janice Kaye, managing director of MMS National, says that "ninety-nine percent of companies have no idea how much absenteeism costs them. They have not done the analysis, and when they do, they are shocked."

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