How To Reduce Sick Leave In The Workplace

How to reduce sick leave in the workplace

Sick days are expensive. Whether you are the employee on the sick day or whether you’re the employer losing valuable man hours to the sickness bug they are something we would love to avoid. It’s estimated that workers off sick cost the UK economy 6.6billion in 2012 (Daily Telegraph) Similar figures state that this figure could be as high as 29 billion dependant on the research method.

It’s clear to see this is an incredible cost which if possible would be avoided. Not all illnesses can be prevented however but companies can do their utmost to restrict illness as much as possible.

As an employee I hate sick days and haven’t had one in 6 years working. They tend to hamper one’s work schedule and are more of a hindrance than a respite.  Naturally as workers it’s our duty to safeguard our own health but there are also steps organisations can follow to make sure these days are kept to a minimum.

What a reduction in sick days can yield:

On average the UK take a whopping 9.1 days sick a year whereas the US take 4.9 days. Both of these figures reducing by as little as 10% can yield great benefit to a business.

For example: A UK business with 20 employees reducing this average sick day amount by 10% would gain around 19 working days from their staff. As a monetary return you would envisage that would be quite substantial on the overall profits of the business.

We also need to take into account the reduction of spreading illness. By implementing techniques and facilities to reduce this number you would expect a reduction in this passing between employees. 

The beauty of these reduction strategies is that they also double up as retention techniques and form non monetary benefits all employees strive for in their workplace.


Free Healthy Lunches:

This also doubles as a productivity and retention strategy. Free lunches at work is a great way of maintaining the health of your employee’s. By providing free lunches which consist of a balanced, healthy diet you can safeguard the health of your members of staff while in your workplace.healthy-lunch-at-work

Not only this but you can double up with education too. Why are they eating specific foods? Why this benefits them. By pitching this as ‘free lunches’ you win everyone over. We all want a free lunch right? In reality however it’s a way of controlling the health of your workers and making sure their diet is balanced and of benefit to their health.

Create the right working temperature:

Not only does temperature affect your productivity within the workplace but it also affects your health. A cold office can send your workers to the sick bay faster than you can say ‘Monday Morning’. In the same way over air conditioned offices can have the same effect as can the cold office environments due to the lack of heating.

The key is to gain the temperature in the office which suits your coldest worker. It’s commonly accepted that people depending on weight, age and gender can feel colder than others. By making it warm enough for the coldest worker it enables them to be comfortable at work. Warmer workers can dress appropriately for the conditions and adapt their work outfit to match.

Cold workers will increase sick days as they are likely to pick up flu like symptoms due to the temperature within the office.

Allow Employee’s with colds to work from home:

Logic in the workplace? Who would have thought it?

As technology advances we have the ability to apply logic to these situations. The number of individuals working online or on computers rises by the minute and therefore does our ability to offer these the opportunity to work from home if they have any cold like symptoms. This makes complete sense from both the employee and the employer point of view.

The employee is able to work from the comfort of their own home without getting behind on key projects. They can also jump straight to bed once they have clocked off. Nobody wants to commute when they feel under the weather.

The benefits to the business include the reduction in chances of the flu spreading as well as not losing a worker to sickness as they are accessible from home. Although they may not be firing on all cylinders having a presence is far better than losing a worker to illness completely.  Work from home offers a welcome place to those suffering from illness.

Flu Jab/ Hand Sanitizers:

Although more common in the winter months cold and flu is an all year round issue for businesses throughout the globe. People get sick. It happens. It can however be minimised through good hygiene and taking initial precautions. A non monetary benefit currently popular within the UK is a free flu jab for all employees. This allows workers to receive (if wanted) a flu vaccination which significantly minimises the chances of flu.

Secondly hand sanitizers are also recommended within busy work forces where numerous people touch doors, work surfaces and equipment. By having a hand sanitizer system you limit the chances of these type of infections spreading.

Exercise facilities:

Exercise reduces sick days and stress. There’s no arguments to suggest otherwise. Companies are encouraging employees to partake in regular exercise but why not go a step further and help employees with regular exercise.

To help reduce sick days actively offer reduced fee gym memberships as an employee incentive. Offer to subsidise the cost of a gym membership or if you have the capacity create an in house

Having an exercise environment within the workplace will encourage employees to become more health conscious and reduce any excuses as to why they are not exercising. This should have a domino affect on your sick leave numbers.

Reward and recognise those who are never absent:

Create a culture where fantastic attendance is expected from your workforce by rewarding and recognising those employee’s with impeccable health and dedication to the workplace. Of course we are not focusing on long term health issues here more so sickness bugs and flu symptoms and those who are immune to such.

You may decide to reward those with long term attendance with extra days annual leave bonus. Some organisations have gone as far as offer financial bonuses to those with lower amounts of sick days. For others this may seem wrong on many levels given employees should already have a commitment to the workplace.

Actively praising those who are constant within the working environment however is a great way to drive the right attitude throughout the business. It also sets a tone for the type of employee’s you want to attract in the short, medium and long term.

Flexibility with sick day structure:

Not everyone who takes a sick day may be sick. Reasons for sick leave vary. If a specific situation is on compassionate/ caring grounds then allow them to make up the time as opposed to clocking as a sick day.

This can work both ways as it promotes respect and acknowledgement of an individuals circumstances between employer and employee. This mutual respect will see the employee going the extra yard in future. Don’t be so rigid with what you deem as a sick day. Be appreciative of individuals circumstances and help them as much as possible.

Ergonomics & Equipment:

Back problems are ripe within the office environment and chronic back issues typically lead to sick days. Ergonomics and the right equipment for your staff is extremely important. Having the right desk, chair and other office furniture can lead to increased productivity, prevent irritability within the workplace and long term injuries due to poor posture.

It’s estimated within the UK that 7.6 million working days were lost due to back pain. Not all careers have the luxury of offering such equipment however companies operating within offices can make sure the health of their staff is safeguarded through researched equipment and promoting great ergonomics.


Nobody wants to be off work due to sickness. The company wants to reduce sick days and the employee wants to be 100% available to do the best job possible. Unfortunately they occur and in some instances organisations can do more to prevent them.

The health and wellbeing of your workforce is arguably one of the most key aspects of business. Without your employee’s the business fails so it’s exceptionally important they are looked after to.

Look after your workers health. Treat them right, feed them right and present them with a working condition which is health focused. If you do this they will look after your business.

About the author

Ryan Gibson

Hey! I'm a 28 year old digital marketing guy residing in Leeds, England. My skill is in search marketing and I have gathered over 6 years experience of working on large multilingual campaigns for a number of FTSE 250 Organisations. After accepting a role with a business based in Singapore I began questioning traditional business practice and employee retention. This blog was therefore born with focus on Y in the workplace. A millennial child at heart I aim to provide a voice for the 'misunderstood' generation and my goal is simply to change perception and corporate mind set on work/life attitudes; inspiring companies and individuals to seek change.


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