CIPD Absence Survey 2016

On 2nd November 2016, CIPD published its 17th annual absence management survey results. For me, the interesting finding were not the headline figures of the report but that the sample size had nearly doubled, reaching 1091 respondents. For years, the group size has fluctuated both sides of the 600 mark.


Respondents with no data to report

Considering the number of companies operating in the UK, 600 is not very many. From that perspective it is great to see the report has become more representative. Despite the positive trend in responses, the sample size for specific questions leaves room for improvement. Only two thirds of organisations, for example, submitted an actual absence figure for 2015. This goes to show that monitoring absence does not have the focus it should. We hope that their participation in this survey signals increased interest in addressing the oversight.

Headline findings

According to CIPD Absence Management Survey 2016, absence levels have dropped marginally compared with last year, from 6.9 days per employee per year to 6.3 days. This year, more organisations highlighted the role of line managers in managing absence. Giving line managers primary responsibility for managing absence and providing them with sickness information were among their most effective management approaches.

More responsibility without proper training

However, there has been a decrease this year in both the number of organisations saying they train line managers in absence-handling and in the number who provide tailored support for managers – for example, online support or a care conference with HR.

Cost of absence

Only a third of organisations monitor the cost of employee absence. As we have highlighted year after year, this really is the important factor that needs to change in order for more companies to see absence as an issue worth their attention. Public sector organisations and larger employers are more likely to collect data on their absence costs. How the cost is calculated varies from one organisation to the next from reporting on sick pay alone to taking into account other direct and indirect costs of absence.

£522 per employee per year

CIPD Absence Management Survey 2016 reports a median cost of absence of £522 per employee per year. The overall median cost of absence per employee has fallen slightly compared with previous years, corresponding with the decrease in absence levels. This decline, however, masks considerable variation within and between sectors. As in previous years the median cost of absence is considerably higher in the public sector (£835 per employee), where absence levels are highest.

In our experience, most companies do not understand their full cost of absence. Read more about direct and indirect costs of absence.