It appears that the Barbados Government is losing millions of dollars a year as a result of absenteeism.
This afternoon, Minister of Health Donville Inniss revealed startling figures which gave only a glimpse of the heavy financial burden that absenteeism was costing the state across the public sector.
Speaking at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre during a Barbados Employers Confederation-organised open forum on unhealthy employees versus sick work places, Inniss disclosed that a department in his ministry alone had been recording an average 655 absent days a month, at a loss of just under $55,000 per month, or in excess of half million dollars per year.
He told the forum that this was only direct cost to the Government.
“Now let us not be like the proverbial ostrich here. Barbados as an economy and as a society, suffers greatly, from high levels of absenteeism in then work place. While we might not have a mechanism for collecting data and monitoring the situation, I don’t know of any state-owned entity or privately owned enterprise that do not suffer from absenteeism at an uncomfortable level,” Inniss declared.
Inniss pointed out though, that not every employee who reported sick, was playing truant.
“The truth is that most employees who call in sick, I am told, are indeed ill,” he added.
He said it was a matter that had to be placed on the table so all involved could understand the root causes, and address them.
“Now a recent study at one of our own state health facilities,” Inniss announced, “indicated that we are averaging 655 absent days per month, resulting in a direct cost to you the taxpayers of $54,972 per month. That is only one state entity.
“Let me repeat it, one department in the ministry of health averaging 655 absent days per month costing you the taxpayer $54,972 per month, and that is only direct costs — nothing to do with the replacement employees and other issues related to it.
“So when you add all of these indirect costs, you can get a pretty good gauge of what absenteeism is doing to only one institution,” noted the Cabinet minister.
He said the ministry had found that when “obvious” illness was subtracted, it was left with those who suffered the mental anguish of going to work in bad physical and managerial environments.
“Mental health challenges do take a serious toll on our work places. Unenlightened human resource management practices do not recognise, or appreciate the extent of mental illnesses in the work place, including stress and depression,” submitted Inniss.
“So I want to encourage all of you as employers to engage professionals who would help you design and implement programmes related to mental health issues in the work place. You must have some compassion on your workers.” (EJ)