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Self-isolation amid COVID-19 leads to rise in absenteeism

Abigail Fenton
·2-min read
Employees having to isolate due to COVID-19 exposure and cases has led to increased workplace absenteeism. (Annie Spratt/Unsplash)
Employees having to isolate due to COVID-19 exposure and cases has led to increased workplace absenteeism. Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

Self-isolation amid the COVID-19 pandemic has unsurprisingly lead to an increase in workplace absenteeism, research suggests.

More than two in five (42%) firms have staff members who have had to self-isolate at least once during the pandemic, according to a survey of 900 small-to-medium businesses by Close Brothers Asset Finance.

The problem is particularly acute in larger SMEs, with the number rising to 52% of firms with 61 to 250 employees, and 62% of those with more than 250 employees.

Meanwhile, 42% firms with 11 to 60 employees have staff members who have had to isolate, along with 14% of the smallest firms with 10 or fewer staff members.

READ MORE: 'Nearly half' of UK SME employees say working from home boosts productivity

In addition to absences through self-isolation, more than a quarter (27%) of firms have staff members who tested positive for COVID-19, the research found.

Meanwhile, nearly one in five (18%) company bosses — or senior members — also tested positive, rising to over a quarter (26%) for firms with over 60 employees.

Despite this, nearly four in five bosses said they would describe their workplace as “COVID-secure.”

“In an average year, absenteeism costs the UK’s economy around £20bn annually, based on an average of just over four sick days for each employee,” said Neil Davies, CEO of Close Brothers' Commercial Division.

READ MORE: Cancelled Christmas parties 'to save UK workers £4bn’

“[This year] has been anything but average, and the increase in absenteeism has been exacerbated by the pandemic.”

The research also found two in three staff members are “confident” to return to their place of work, while seven in 10 are also able to work from home — helping minimise loss in productivity.

Additionally, the data suggests working from home really is set to become the “new normal,” with nearly seven in 10 bosses saying the option to do so will likely continue after the pandemic.

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