Small firms cough up £1,500 a year for sick days

A survey suggests small businesses are spending thousands on sickness absences - and the FSB wants the Government's help.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 22 Jul 2015
With consumer confidence at an all-time low, inflation at an all-time high, fuel prices rocketing and the entire economy generally teetering on the brink of disaster, we’d imagine employers are currently praying that this winter, we avoid another swine flu-type pandemic. But even without swine/bird/dog/cat-derived infections doing the rounds, a report by the Federation of Small Businesses has suggested that illness-related absences (the real and fake varieties) cost small businesses a whopping £1,500 a year. For 9% of firms, that’s more than £5,000 a year. Which is enough to make us sick...

The good news, according to the FSB, is that people who work for small businesses are significantly less likely to take time off than their big business counterparts. The average number of days taken by people working for small firms is 2.4, compared to the national average of 7.7 days per employee. And small businesses seem fairly positive about their workers’ health: 25% said in the last year, none of their employees had taken time off, while 81% said they weren’t at all affected by long-term sickness absence. Although whether that’s because workers are more committed, or simply because small businesses have fewer people to go down with something unpleasant, isn’t clear...

Credit where it’s due: the Government does have measures in place to allow employers to claim back statutory sick pay: the Percentage Threshold Scheme helps businesses work out how much SSP they can claim back. But the FSB reckons it’s far too complex for the majority of businesses, which means they’re either ignoring it, or forking out to bring in an accountant to do the maths for them. Which, obviously, isn’t great for businesses at a time when every penny counts.

So the FSB is proposing an ‘employer’s relief’, which would apply to businesses with National Insurance Contributions bills of less than £45,000, and would work in the same way as the (comparatively simple) system used for reclaiming statutory maternity pay. Not only would that save businesses money, said the organisation, but it would also help to reduce the amount of red tape surrounding sickness absences - so it would save them time, too.

Sounds fair enough - although it might have a bit of a struggle on its hands. After all, with a currency to save and an economy to rescue, we’d imagine the Government could do with a touch of R&R itself...

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