Recession worries push sickies to record low

Employees are taking fewer sick days than ever before - but the public sector has a way to go yet...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

When you're worried about keeping your job, you're a lot less likely to pull a sickie. Or at least, that seems to be the conclusion of the latest absence survey by the CBI: last year, workers took an average of 6.4 days off, the lowest rate since records began in 1987. But the CBI says the UK economy still lost around £17bn last year because of the 180m sick days we collectively took - and with 15% of these supposedly not due to genuine illness, that means sickies are still costing UK firms about £2.5bn a year. So tighter policies and better health management are still required...

According to the CBI, a slight drop in public sector sick days was the main reason for the reduction in the overall rate - the average dropped from 9 to 8.3 days. However, that's still about 43% more than the average private sector worker, who took 5.8 days. With David Cameron insisting this morning the nation’s finances are in a worse state than he thought, and the Chancellor preparing to slash public spending, any civil servants contemplating a sickie might be wise to drag themselves into the office, or they may not have a job to go back to. Although of course it's not just about cracking down on the work-shy - better workplace policies and improved rehabilitation procedures would also help to bring that number down, as the CBI points out.

One man doing his bit for the nation’s productivity levels is new small business minister Mark Prisk, who, in an unprecedented break from the old ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach favoured by ministers past, is trialling a new way to understand SMEs’ gripes: work experience. Prisk will be spending five days with five different companies to help him ‘better understand the current issues affecting small firms’ – and he’s going to encourage his team to do the same.

Prisk will apparently spend his first day as a workie at east London-based energy monitor design company DIY Kyoto. Jon Sawdon Smith, the company’s co-founder, says he’s looking forward to having the chance to explain ‘the ins and outs of a small business’ – although he did question whether the minister has the right aptitudes to cut it in the world of energy monitor design. 'We are wondering whether he has any language skills,' he pondered in The Sunday Times. And if his Japanese isn’t up to scratch? 'He could take things to the Post Office…'

But his language skills notwithstanding, Prisk does at least have some credibility in the small business arena: before he went into politics, he ran his own company for 10 years. So he ought to have a decent understanding of the issues, although obviously a lot has changed since his day (if nothing else, the red tape jungle has got a lot thicker). And at least this little exercise will answer the one burning question about Prisk's competence and suitability for the business job: can he make a decent brew?

In today's bulletin:

Cameron: UK's problems are 'even worse than we thought'
Recession worries push sickies to record low
MT Leadership Visions: Capitalising on complexity
John Vincent: How to be a good leader
MT Expert's Top Ten Tips: Deal with tech-savvy graduates

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