Record breaking temperatures during March caused the number of staff phoning in sick to treble, research from law firm ELAS has found.
With temperatures soaring to more than 20°C during one weekend, making it the hottest March in the UK since 1968, thousands of employees failed to turn up for work at the beginning of the week, said ELAS, which blamed the high levels of absenteeism on the exceptionally good weather. On average, March temperatures usually reach around 9°C or 10°C.
“We usually see a rise in absenteeism when the weather gets really nice in July or August, but we’ve never seen a spike like this in March,”
said ELAS head of employment law Peter Mooney.
“Our clients have had around three times as many people call in sick. Whether it’s to enjoy the sunshine or to recover from spending time in the beer garden, it seems the sunshine is to blame.”
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) advised business owners who were suspicious of sickies being taken during hot spells to keep a record of absence and to question staff on their return to work.
However, smaller firms typically tended to experience lower sickness absence than bigger businesses or public sector organisations, according to FSB spokeswoman Sara Lee.
“Our members tell us that workers only take around two days sick per year, compared to the average of around seven days,” she said.
“In a small business, staff tend to work closely with each other which generally deters people from taking time off unnecessarily. There’s a loyalty factor which prevents people from just throwing a sickie when they feel like it.”
Having a minimal management structure also helped to prevent excess sickness absence, she added.
“If staff need to take time off, they can usually just ask the boss, rather than having to get approval from an HR department or various managers. The lines of communication are usually more open.”