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News - 18 November 2006
Too ill to work?

Small businesses breed stronger staff

People who work for small businesses are hardly ever sick compared with people who work for large companies. And people who work in the public sector are the sickest of them all.

Are people who work for smaller companies made of sterner stuff or are they sick just as often but soldier on regardless? Or could it be that people who work in larger organisations see their ‘sickies’ as an entitlement that everyone takes so as not to miss out.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has published research that details the impacts and issues surrounding ill-health within small firms.

The key finding from the survey is that the average number of days small businesses lost to absence per employee was 1.8 days per year. This is compared to the 8.4 days average in businesses of all sizes as reported by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. In the public sector the average is 11.3 days.

Many small businesses paint a positive picture, with 43% of firms having no sickness absence in the past year. Business owners take an average of 3 days sick leave per year and many are under pressure to continue to work through sickness to ensure the continuity of the business.

However, unexpected absences hit small businesses the hardest. Without any warning a small firm can find itself without a large proportion of its workforce, even though it can be just one member of staff. Covering for absence is also extremely difficult in the small business environment because of the costs and administration involved for the owner in finding cover. The owner also has to take the strain of the additional workload until cover can be found.

Mary Boughton, FSB National Health and Safety Chairman, said, "This report sheds welcome light on the issue of health at work for small firms. With small businesses employing around half of the private sector workforce, 12 million jobs rely on ensuring small firms keep going when staff are ill.

"The report demonstrates the team spirit that runs through small firms with staff and owners more likely to be at work to keep the business running. However, it also identifies ways in which small businesses can be better supported to safeguard their employees' health."

Read related items on:
Federation of Small Businesses
Boughton, Mary

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