SA loses R19bn a year because of staff staying away from work

Thomas McLachlan

Thomas McLachlan

Bunking work costs the country about R19billion a year, and Mondays and Fridays are the worst days for absenteeism, a survey by Corporate Absenteeism Management Solutions (Cams) showed yesterday.

"Absenteeism is the largest cause of lost time and poor productivity facing this country," said labour specialist Andrew Levy, who studied the poll, "The Vanishing Workforce".

The major causes of bunking work and abusing sick leave were low pay, less responsibilities and repetitive work, said Cams chief executive Johnny Johnson. He said manual employees had consistently higher levels of absence than their white collar counterparts.

The research showed that more than half of all absenteeism measured in the sample was less than two days and 35 percent of cases involved an absence of one day or less.

Less than 20 percent of absenteeism periods occurred for longer than four days.

Most companies said there was a pattern to absence. The survey showed that most absences were recorded over a Monday or a Friday, or before and after long weekends or public holidays.

Levy added that companies could monitor their absenteeism effectively because of this.

"This becomes a relatively easy manifestation of abuse to identify and deal with. It is highly unlikely that there are medical conditions that arrive at the weekend with such reliability and regularity," said Levy.

The study found that the most challenging period for employers was December. The month was generally considered a period of lesser overall economic activity as the nation takes summer break.

Levy said employers' options during this period varied from compulsory leave for employees, to accepting that staff who were there physically might not be there in spirit.

The study follows a similar one by Cams, which found that 52 percent of South African employees who were booked off sick in winter had respiratory illnesses such as flu.

"Unfortunately, flu and respiratory illnesses are one of those things we will never be able to control completely," said Johnson. - With I-Net Bridge and Sapa