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  • 13 September 2019
  • 5 min

French Study Finds 39% Increase in the Employee Absenteeism Rate

For the fifth consecutive year, REHALTO – a Workplace Options company, has published a major study on workplace absences. The survey of French workers, conducted by the BVA Institute, included 301 Human Resources directors and 1,505 employees. In addition to identifying the rate of absenteeism, the survey highlights the reasons for absences, duration, impact on companies, and companies’ actions to minimise absences.

Christian Mainguy, Senior Vice President of Strategic Relationships for Workplace Options, shares, “Absenteeism remains an important issue for companies. This survey serves as a barometer to help us better understand the causes of workplace absences and identify the opportunities to help improve employee health and working conditions.”

Survey results show that over the past five years, there has been a 39 per cent increase in the absenteeism rate, with an average annual growth rate of 6.85 per cent. The 2019 survey found that in the previous 12 months, 36 per cent of employees had been absent at least once. On average, employees were absent 14.1 days. For companies with more than 50 employees the absenteeism rate was 3.9 per cent.

Significant Variances by Age, Job Category 

Consistent with previous years’ results, the average rate of absenteeism varied significantly by employee age and job category. Absenteeism rates were highest for employees age 50 and older (4.4 per cent), blue-collar workers (6.5% per cent) and employees in the industrial sector (4.8 per cent). In contrast, absenteeism rates were lowest for employees under the age of 30 (2.8 per cent), executives (1.4 per cent) and commercial employees (2.2 per cent).

Lengths of Absences Increasing 

While 6 out of 10 periods of absence were less than three months, the duration of absences is on the rise. Long-term absences lasting more than three months now represent 9 per cent of all absences. Additionally, long-term absences are considered the costliest.

Emotional Health Issues the Leading Cause of Absence 

Excluding common illnesses like a sore throat or cold, emotional issues are now the leading cause of workplace absences (29 per cent) compared with musculoskeletal disorders (27 per cent). Looking closer at the types of emotional health issues, 19 per cent were related to burnout and 10 per cent were identified as psychological disorders.

Employees Reluctant to Take Sick Leave

Beyond the statistics, and contrary to popular belief, this study confirms the reality of presenteeism, described as the lack of productivity experienced when employees who are distracted or ill come to work. The study found that 34 per cent of employees faced with a difficulty requiring sick leave go to work. Another 10 per cent prefer to use their annual leave allowance. Two potential explanations here are concerns over a drop in income (especially among blue-collar workers) and a heavy workload (especially among executives).

Job Issues Cited for a Quarter of Absences 

In the study, 23 per cent of employees who had been absent cited job-related reasons. Difficulties related to managerial practices was identified by 12 per cent of employees as the reason for their absences.

More specifically, 7 per cent of employees who had been absent had been placed on sick leave in the past 12 months for burnout. Women (9 per cent), the youngest (9 per cent of those under age 30) and those working on fixed-term contracts (11 per cent) were more likely to experience this type of sick leave. Also of interest, 22 per cent of employees surveyed were caregivers and the rate of burnout climbed to 14 per cent when there is a dependent in the employee’s home.

Negative Impact on Companies 

For the majority of HR directors, absences have a negative impact on their companies (75 per cent) and on economic performance (58 per cent). Common struggles related to absenteeism included difficulties finding replacements, production shortfalls, and delivery delays.

Return-to-Work Considerations 

In the survey, 84 per cent of employees considered returning to work after a long period of absence (more than three months) to be a distressing event. Of those employees who had been absent for a long period of time, 62 per cent expressed the need for support from their company. The type of support desired included attention from their manager, administrative support, and flexibility regarding positions and working conditions.

Companies are taking a number of actions to better manage and prevent workplace absences including the establishment of a quality work environment (80 per cent), flexible working times and schedules (65 per cent), reinforcement of the team of the absent employee (62 per cent) and support for employees returning to work (59 per cent).

Teleworking, One Way of Reducing Absenteeism? 

According to the study, 21 per cent of companies allow teleworking. Teleworking, even on an occasional basis, seems to have a strong positive impact on absenteeism rates. The absenteeism rate for employees with teleworking options is 2 per cent, and it is 1.2 per cent for those who can telework occasionally. This is in comparison to a 4.3 rate for employees who do not have teleworking opportunities.

Health and Wellbeing Programs Not Widespread

The study revealed that 28 per cent of companies had shared information with employees to encourage physical exercise, 25 per cent had promoted a balanced diet to maintain health and 25 per cent offered a telephone line to provide psychological counselling and support.

HR Directors Face Many Challenges

Among the main concerns, three out of four HR directors considered changes in the company as a challenge, 83 percent expressed a need for the skills required to carry out their job, and 25 per cent of them reported feeling stressed. The survey also revealed that one in two HR directors devotes at least 10 per cent of their working time to the prevention and management of human and social risks.

About Workplace Options

Workplace Options helps employees balance their work, family and personal needs to become healthier, happier and more productive, both personally and professionally. The company’s world-class employee support, effectiveness and wellbeing services provide information, resources, referrals and consultation on a variety of issues ranging from dependent care and stress management to clinical services and wellness programmes.

Drawing from an international network of credentialed providers and professionals, Workplace Options is the world’s largest integrated employee support and work-life services provider. Service centres in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Ireland, Portugal, France, Belgium, UAE, Singapore, Japan, China, India, and Indonesia support more than 65 million employees across 100,000 organizations and more than 200 countries and territories.

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