1998 CCH Unscheduled Absence Survey - Work-life Conflicts? Too Stressed
To Work? Youre Not Alone Says CCH
Sick Days Arent
Just for the Sick Anymore, Whats an Employer to Do?
(RIVERWOODS, ILL., September 23, 1998) -- Unscheduled
absenteeism skyrocketed last year, but not necessarily
because employees were sick. In fact, "Personal
Illness" as the reason for not coming to work
reached an all-time low, according to the 1998 CCH
Unscheduled Absence Survey conducted by CCH
INCORPORATED. The number-one reason for these no-shows is
now "Family Issues," according to CCH, a
leading provider of human resources and employment law
The CCH survey of 401 human resources professionals
from U.S. companies of all sizes across eight industry
categories found unscheduled absenteeism has jumped 25
percent from last year and the average cost to employers
is up by 32 percent. The survey was released today in the
newsletter, CCH Human Resources Management Ideas and
TROUBLING PROBLEM FOR HR PROFESSIONALS
While people are calling in at the last minute more
often to cancel work, only 22 percent are doing so
because theyre ill. In contrast, in 1995, the first
year the CCH survey began tracking reasons for
absenteeism, nearly one-half of all unplanned time off
was attributed to Personal Illness. Most of the
time, unscheduled absences are now due to other reasons.
At 26 percent, Family Issues -- a sick child,
family emergency, etc. -- is number one on the list. Personal
Needs is also a top reason, accounting for 20 percent
of unplanned time off.
Climbing quickly on the list of reasons is Stress,
which in 1995 accounted for just 6 percent of unscheduled
absences, but has tripled according to human resources
professionals. The 1998 CCH Unscheduled Absence Survey
indicates that last year, 16 percent of American workers
taking unexpected time off did so because of stress.
"Theres been a significant increase in the
cost and occurrence of unscheduled absences, and
work-life conflicts increasingly are the reason,"
said Paul Gibson, an attorney and human resources analyst
for CCH's Health and Human Resources Group.
"Employers who want to reverse this trend are going
to have to pay more attention to putting programs in
place that address these work-life issues."
EMPLOYERS KNOW THIS, BUT
Employers recognize work-life programs can be
effective in controlling absenteeism. However, despite
the significant cost of unscheduled absenteeism -- as
high as $1,044 per employee annually -- many companies
have been slow to implement work-life programs.
FLEX SCHEDULING TOPS THE LIST
The CCH survey examined a variety of work-life
programs and asked respondents to rank their
effectiveness in controlling unexpected time off. On a
scale of one to five, with five as the most effective,
the top ranked work-life programs for reducing
unscheduled absences were Flex Scheduling (3.78), On-Site
Child Care (3.63), Emergency Child Care
(3.55), Compressed Work Week (3.48) and Leave
for School Functions (3.46).
Three of these programs also were among the top five
programs used by those companies surveyed. However, only Flex
Scheduling, which 51 percent said they implemented,
seemed to have made a true in-road among organizations.
Only 24 percent indicated using Compressed Work Week,
22 percent authorized Leave for School Functions
and 13 percent provided Emergency Child Care.
On-Site Child Care, which was seen as the
second most effective work-life program for reducing
unplanned time off, was used at just 6 percent of
companies, according to 1998 CCH Unscheduled Absence
"Many organizations may be apprehensive because
the perceived cost of instituting work-life programs is
high," said Gibson. "However, based on the
costs companies have reported, theyre incurring for
unscheduled absences, they should be able to demonstrate
that implementing an appropriate mix of work-life
programs will have a positive impact on the bottom
COMPANIES SEE SAVINGS WITH CHILD CARE PROGRAMS
In the survey issue, CCH Human Resources Management
Ideas and Trends profiled two financial service
companies that are among the growing number of employers
convinced that employer-sponsored, back-up child care
programs are an asset.
New Jersey-based Prudential is projecting annual
savings of more than $80,000 in reduced absenteeism
costs, as well as greater employee retention as the
result of its new back-up child care center in Newark.
First Chicago NBD reports that, on average, employees
taking advantage of the banks back-up child care
program would have missed seven workdays without the
While both companies subsidize the programs to make
them affordable for employees, the availability of
back-up child care adds up to "pretty
significant" savings, said First Chicago Vice
President Linda Siebert Rapoport, the banks work
and family manager. "When you consider the salary of
the worker, management time and lost productivity, the
benefits of back-up child care far outweigh the
cost," she said.
WHICH TYPES OF COMPANIES ARE LIFE FRIENDLY?
While On-Site Child Care was perceived as the
second most effective program in reducing absenteeism, it
was not ranked in the top five programs implemented by
organizations. Rather, the CCH survey found that by both
industry and company size, Flex Scheduling and Employee
Assistance Program (EAP) are the top two programs in
When looking at organizations by size, Job Sharing
was one of the top five programs in use at the largest
organizations -- those with 5,000 or more employees. In
contrast, Leave for School Functions was more
likely to be used at smaller companies, those with up to
By industry, Wellness Programs were among the
top programs in use across industries, including Manufacturing,
Health Care, Retail/Wholesale, Service,
Government and Universities. Telecommuting
was also a top-five program in most of the industry
sectors, including Finance, Health Care, Retail/Wholesale
Universities were the only employers ranking Sabbaticals
among the top five work-life programs. The Health Care
sector was the only one to rank Child Care Referral
programs among the top five.
ENABLING EMPLOYEES TO BETTER MANAGE TIME OFF
In addition to work-life programs, another program
many employers recognized as helping in reducing
unscheduled absences was the use of Paid-Time-Off
programs (PTO). PTO programs provide employees with a
"bank" of hours to use instead of traditional
separate accounts for sick, vacation and personal time.
Of the eight industry sectors surveyed, five indicated
PTO was the most effective in controlling absenteeism. By
company size, four out of the eight categories preferred
PTO to other programs. However, as with work-life
programs, companies have been slow to adopt PTO, with
only 25 percent of companies indicating they use this
program, according to the survey findings.
"Traditional sick days often
encourage unscheduled absences because employees have to
call in sick at the last minute when they may
really be taking the day for personal or family matters
that theyve known about well in advance,"
explained Gibson. "However, theyre suppose to
be sick, so they have to wait until the last minute to
notify their employer.
"This can further raise stress for an employee
who needs the time off, but is uncomfortable lying to the
employer. Its also difficult for the employer who
has to scramble to figure out how to cover for the absent
employee," added Gibson. "With PTO, employees
have more ownership of their time off and how its
used. This, in turn, allows them to schedule all but the
most unforeseeable absences."
HOW TO EVALUATE YOUR OPTIONS, SOME WHO DID
The attached worksheet provides information on how to
review absenteeism and reduce it through paid-time-off
As part of the 1998 CCH Unscheduled Absence Survey,
some companies offered up-close looks at their successful
programs for reducing unplanned absences. Case histories
are available by contacting Leslie Bonacum at
ABOUT CCH INCORPORATED
CCH INCORPORATED, Riverwoods, Ill., is a
leading provider of tax and business law information for
human resources, accounting, legal, securities, health
care, banking and small business professionals. The
companys Health and Human Resources group is among
the nations most noted authoritative sources of
employment law, including information on benefits,
compensation, worker safety and human resources
management. Its publications and software for human
resource professionals include Human Resources
Management, Pension Plan Guide, Benefits Guide and Payroll
Management Guide. CCH is a wholly owned subsidiary
of Wolters Kluwer U.S.
EDITOR'S NOTE: For more information about the
survey, contact: Leslie Bonacum at 847-267-7153 or Mary
Dale Walters at 847-267-2038. Available to the working
- Charts and graphs depicting the full range of
- Historical survey data
- Case histories
- This release and related information are posted
in the CCH Press Center: http://www.cch.com.
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