5 Ways to Reduce Sick Leave in your Business

Reduce Sick Leave

Let’s face it; people get ill. Sick leave is a factor we have to deal with in business, but we can also try to minimise its negative impact. According to a 2016 CIPD absence report, the median cost of sick leave can be as high as £835 per employee. We’ve pulled together five areas you can look at to help minimise the impact of sick leave.

Make the Office Healthier

Most short-term sick is caused by minor illness (colds, flu, etc.). This can be particularly rife during the cold months when the particles we expel from a sneeze or a cough can transfer further in the cold air (source).

Even indoors, sneezed-out particles can travel 20 feet at speeds of 100mph. While viruses can’t replicate outside of the body, they can survive on the various surfaces these particles land on.

So it’s crucial that you regularly clean surfaces that are likely to come into contact with people. Urge your employees to wipe down their keyboards, mice and light switches. In fact, it’s been reported that some keyboards can be dirtier than your average toilet seat. Yuk.

Encourage Your Employees to Be Healthier

As mentioned above, a major transport for viruses is the transmission of particles on surfaces. Cleaning those surfaces regularly can help, and so can cleaning your hands. One University of Michigan study found that regular hand washing can reduce respiratory illness transmission by more than 20%.

The key is to make hand washing a habit. You can encourage your employees by putting up posters to remind people. Making hand sanitizer available throughout the office makes it even harder for people to forget. Also, seeing other people sanitise in public can cause the peer pressure effect for those that currently aren’t sanitising.

With the flu season running from November through to January, you’re almost guaranteed to lose a few people to the dreaded flu. After all, no matter how well you wash your hands, you still have to breathe. Have you considered offering free flu shots to all employees? Bupa offer vouchers for the cost of £7 per employee, and can even arrange for a nurse to come to the office to administer them.

Eating a healthy, varied diet can help to boost your immune system, so encouraging your employees to eat better can make a real difference to the spread of bugs. Companies such as Fruitful Office  specialise in delivering fresh fruit boxes to offices UK wide. As a bonus, although fruits contain some natural sugar, the fibre content in fruit slows your digestion and thereby prevents a spike in blood sugar that occurs with other sugary foods such as chocolate, so your employees won’t get that post-chocolate crash.


Reactivity is a phenomenon that occurs when individuals alter their performance or behaviour due to the awareness that they are being observed.

So by making it clear to your employees that their sickness is being tracked, and ensuring that they are aware of how much sick leave they have taken, you’ll notice that causes some of them to change their behaviour.

In fact, here at The Holiday Tracker, 83% of our customers have reported a reduction in sick leave in their first year with us. This is largely attributed to the fact that we show each employee how much sick leave they’ve taken every time they log into The Holiday Tracker.

Combating the “Sickie”

Life sometimes throws up surprises and there are days where employees can’t make it into work for reasons other than illness, but in the absence of another solution, they “pull a sickie”

If you make room for leave that isn’t necessarily related to illness, then you can engender a culture of honesty. If an employee has a burst water pipe, then they might not make it into work, and if their only option is sick leave, then that’s how they will report it.

Studies have shown that sick leave increases during school holidays, a time when child care and parental responsibilities are more likely to clash with work. Read our full article on Duvet Days to learn more about how you can offer an alternative to those who choose to “pull a sickie”.

Home Working

When employees are ill, rather than call in sick, some will soldier on and make it into work. This leads to a phenomenon dubbed “presenteeism” (as opposed to absenteeism). When employees are sick at work, they’re unlikely to be operating at full power, and worst of all, they’re likely to be infecting the rest of the office too.

In this day and age of Internet connectivity, instant messaging and VOIP calls, it’s very easy to be set up to allow office-based staff to work from home. Allowing remote working when illness strikes keeps those infected soldiers at home and will encourage some employees, who might have called in sick, to work from home instead.

Check out this ACAS guide to homeworking for ideas on how to implement home working.

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