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Research finds that absenteeism is the reason South Africa's losing its competitive edge

by , 31 October 2013
New research has found that South Africa's losing its competitive edge. And it's all thanks to absenteeism. That's just the tip of the tip of the iceberg. There are other worrying trends when it comes to sick leave abuse in the workplace. Here are the details of the study...

Absenteeism is a major reason for South Africa slipping down global competitiveness rankings, with a 500% increase in sick leave since 2001, BDlive reports.

According to the report, this suggests some employees take a sick day when suffering only minor ailments and days off without even being ill.

South Africa was ranked 53rd out of 148 countries in the 2013-14 Global Competitiveness Report, down one place from 52nd last year, says the report.

What are the other growing trends when it comes to sick leave abuse?

Presenteeism: Another growing trend, says executive search firm Humanity Search and Select, is 'presenteeism', BDlive reports.

Presenteeism is when employees show up for work but isn't productive because he or she isn't feeling well.

This phenomenon is actually worse than absenteeism.

'We're talking about a loss of productivity even though the person is physically there,' said Humanity Search and Select CEO Georgina Barrick in the BDlive report.

Sickness absence is also another growing trend.

According to the report, labour specialist Adcorp says that, on any given day, 3.7% of South African workers are absent on sick leave and between 2009 and last year a quarter of all workers took the maximum statutory allowance for sick leave — 30 days in a three-year cycle.

The report adds, in 2001, the figure was just 0.7%. With this many people on sick leave at any given time, it effectively means employers are paying for 20 days' work and receiving 19.

Is there anything you can do to reduce sickness absence in your workplace?

Yes, there is. Apart from developing an absenteeism policy, you can implement a wellness programme in your workplace. Companies that want to be at the forefront of people management assume a greater role than simply providing employment and see wellness as the way to go when taking responsibility for employing people, says the Practical Guide to Human Resources Management.

Chantal du Chenne, a Gauteng strategist in organisational health-risk management is quoted in the BDlive report as saying 'in one blue-chip company, the costs of absence due to sickness had been reduced by about R20million over a five-year period as a result of good wellness and employee programmes.'

She added 'it's in a company's best interests, financially and socially, to have these programmes in place and to build teams of individuals whose physical and emotional health allows them to operate with optimal productivity and efficiency.'

Here are seven steps you need to take when you develop a wellness programme.

The bottom line: Absenteeism will cost your company thousands of rands every year, not to mention lost time in production if you don't manage it correctly.

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