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Europe — 1 billion man hours lost to fictitious sick leave each year

16 July 2010
Across Europe, more than 120 million sick days a year are actually taken for personal reasons rather than for an illness according to Aon Consulting, the employee risk and benefits management firm.

15% of the 7,500 European workers surveyed in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the UK say the last time they took a day off from work as sick leave they were only feigning illness. Additionally, 10% of people took their last sick day in order to look after a family member.

More than 800 million sick days are taken each year, and assuming the average work day is eight hours long, Europe's 'sickies', the practice of feigning illness to avoid work, are costing employers close to a billion hours in lost man-hours.

Taking the size of the workforce in each of the ten countries surveyed and applying the percentage of fictitious sick leave (15%) multiplied by the average wage cost of sick leave for employers brings the total cost to an incredible 40 billion Euro. The number of 'sickies' this year is expected to have increased with many people taking time off work in order to watch the World Cup.

The Spanish are the most likely to admit having taken a sickie (22%), followed by UK workers, the Irish (both 21%) and the Dutch (20%). The Danish (4%), the Norwegians (10%) are the least likely to have taken a sick day off from work under false pretences.

Peter Abelskamp of Aon Consulting, commented "a billion hours taken as fictitious sick leave across Europe and the associated financial cost for businesses are probably conservative figures, considering the number of people who don't admit to faking sickness and the fact that these costs only account for direct wages.
Employers would be well advised to tackle the issues of sickness and workplace absence, as these seriously impact efficiency and hit their balance sheets."

"56% of workers say they would not feel forced to take a day as sick leave if they could just be honest and have access to flexible working hours or 'social days'. Of course, employers should also not ignore the fact that 15% of people say that more interesting work would keep them in the office."

"The economic turmoil facing Europe has probably reduced the number of sick days taken, as 11% of people say the threat of redundancy would actually force them to cut down the number of days off for non-medical reasons. Perhaps not surprisingly, nearly a quarter of respondents say a cash incentive on top of their salary would also encourage them to come in to work."
The top five things which would encourage Europeans to take less time off work include:
  • Benefit of social days to take for non-medical, personal reasons (31%).
  • Provision of flexible working (27%).
  • Substantial cash incentive (25%).
  • Provision of on-site medical care (19%).
  • More interesting work (15%).

To read the full European Sick Leave Index report please click here



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