Employers Association study on Sick leave - 28/2/2004

Doubts cast over sick leave
The second most common ailment cited by manual workers when reporting sick is backache, according to a survey carried out between January and this month by the Malta Employers' Association.

Minor illnesses are the main reason for sick leave, according to the survey. They include physical conditions whose duration is no longer than three days, an MEA spokesman said.

Other main reasons are stress and recurring medical conditions. The survey results were published yesterday during the MEA's annual general meeting.

Out of a total of 120 private firms to whom the survey was forwarded, 76 companies, employing 14,000 employees from all sectors of the economy, filled in and returned the questionnaire.

The findings of the survey indicate that absence due to sick leave last year stood at an average of 7.1 days, or three per cent. Around 3.5 per cent of sick leave is taken as half-paid and unpaid.

The survey findings indicated significant differences between the incidence of sick leave among different sectors of the economy.

In the construction sector, for example, the average number of sick days last year was 12.4 days. But it was 4.3 days in the hotels and restaurants sector.

Most of the respondents from the manufacturing sector consider sick leave as a most significant cost to the company. Service companies, on the other hand, perceive sick leave to be less significant cost-wise. Twenty per cent of respondents believe that as much as 20 per cent of sick leave is not genuine and a further 14 per cent feel that more than 20 per cent of sick leave is not genuine.

The main reasons for absence that may not be due to ill health are the extension of leisure time, fatigue from part-time employment and family responsibilities.

The same pattern applies for non-manual employees. Drink and drug related absence hardly featured as reasons for taking sick leave, according to the survey findings.

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