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Jamie Lawrence

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UK firms have ‘half the rate of staff sickness’ of German counterparts

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The number of UK companies reporting high rates of staff sickness has fallen to half the rate reported in Germany and France.

This is according to Dr Wen Wang, of the University of Wolverhampton Business School, who reported the findings to the British Sociological Association’s conference on work, employment and society.

Dr Wang said that in 2004 around 17% of UK firms studied said they had high rates of staff sickness, which fell to 9% in 2009. This contrasts to 17% and 24% respectively in Germany and 29% and 21% in France.

He added the fall is in part due to the UK having weaker employment protection and lower sick pay.

Along with Professor Roger Seifert, also of Wolverhampton Business School, Dr Wang analysed the statistics on 2,620 private-sector firms with more than 10 employers in three countries.

They identified other factors contributing to the relatively low levels of high staff sickness in the UK:

  • less overtime worked, with overtime earning extra pay rather than time off in lieu
  • more profit-sharing among staff
  • less variation in workload than found in German and French firms
  • good working atmosphere

The higher staff sickness rate that developed in Germany by 2009 was statistically linked to factors including:

  • laws which made sacking or disciplining staff hard for employers
  • more generous sick pay
  • high rates of staff working overtime. (In a quarter of German firms studied in 2009 all of the workforce had worked some overtime, and overtime was usually rewarded with time off in lieu and not more pay)
  • increased workload variation (more than half of firms in Germany in 2009 had to cope with large changes in workload at short notice)
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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence
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