Two University of the West Indies studies conducted over a four-year period have revealed that absenteeism cost 29 companies in Barbados an estimated $6.3 million in loss productivity.
The findings of the studies were presented yesterday by Lecturer in Management Studies at the Cave Hill Campus, Dr. Dion Greenidge. to a breakfast seminar on absenteeism, organised by the Human Resources Management Association of Barbados at the Savannah Hotel in Hastings, Christ Church.
The surveys, carried out between 2004 and 2008, involved 29 organisations and more than 1,300 employees, mainly private sector companies, which Greenidge said provided actual absence records of workers.
In the 2004 study, it was found that absenteeism ranged 3.6 per cent to 8.1 per cent or an average 6.2 per cent (7.3 per cent, if the lowest subsidiary company was removed).
“Costs were $466,310 for 12 months for the five subsidiary companies,” the research disclosed.
With respect to the second study between 2006 and 2008, absenteeism was placed between two per cent and five per cent, or an average 3.6 per cent (4.2 per cent, if the lowest factor was removed).
“Costs were $945,000 for three months for 24 companies. Costs were $5,841,000 for 12 months for 24 companies,” the findings indicated.
Examining the research, Greenidge acknowledged that the costs of absenteeism in Barbados was high, suggesting that interventions to lower them should be implemented, based on the findings of the study.
“Findings in Barbados are similar to elsewhere, but weather and personal errands are special issues examined here,” the researcher pointed out.
“Organisational issues such as job satisfaction are important contributors to absenteeism — workplace interventions can deal with these,” added the lecturer in management studies.
Greenidge said older workers were less likely to be absent, noting that there were several possible explanations.
“Gender did not have an impact on absences — the timing of the study may explain this finding,” stated Greenidge. He also presented some “practical” recommendations.
“Where the process does not already exist, private and public organisations should collect, track, analyse and publish absenteeism levels, in order to communicate to employees, that absenteeism is a cost and a concern,” he suggested.
The University of the West Indies lecturer also advised that addressing the causes of absenteeism and developing solutions, would be most successful if employees at all levels of the organisation were involved in discussions. “A benchmark study on human resource policies concerning best practice policies to combat absenteeism, should be undertaken, and the results communicated to all organisations in Barbados,” recommended Greenidge.
The researcher submitted that workplace stress was one of the biggest causes of employee absence and also one of the more difficult issues to manage.
“Organisations should conduct risk assessments for work-related stress and consider the psycho-social work environment,” he asserted. (EJ)