Many employers changing work patterns in a bid to cut long-term absence levels in the workplace

An increasing number of employers are changing work patterns in a positive bid to cut long-term absence levels, according to new figures.

Work absence figures are back up to the levels seen in 2011 - an average of 7.6 days per worker - after a slight dip last year, the CIPD/Simplyhealth Absence Management poll showed.

They are at the highest level in the public services sector and lowest in manufacturing and production, at six days.

Absence levels also tend to be higher the larger the organisation is, with smaller ones attributing a higher number of their absences to short-term leave compared to bigger employers.

As absence levels rise again, more bosses are adjusting work patterns and environments in a bid to manage long-term absenteeism, the research indicates.

This year, some 85% of employers said they had made changes, up from the 65% recorded last year.

The increase bucks the trend of previous years, when figures only improved by 2% between 2010 and 2012, the CIPD/Simplyhealth report showed.

In addition, more than 70% of organisations surveyed said that introducing flexible working options has had a positive effect on absence levels within their workplace.

On the whole, short-term absences of up to seven days account for two-thirds of business time lost to absenteeism.

Meanwhile, long-term absences of four weeks or more account for a fifth.

But there are significant differences between sectors. In the public sector, just under half of absences are short-term, compared to more than three-quarters in the private sector.

The figures, which were released by the professional body for HR and people development, the CIPD, appear to indicate that employers and organisations are actively looking at reasonable adjustments to help employees return after a period of absence.

As an example, employees may find they can better their responsibilities in and outside of the workplace by working 10am to 6pm, instead of 9am to 5pm.

Copyright Press Association 2013