Allergy Awareness Week: ways to reduce allergy-related absence

25th April to 1st May is Allergy Awareness Week, which is an excellent time to look at the effects of allergy-related absence in the workplace.

NB: this article was written before FirstCare rebranded to GoodShape on 30.10.21

Allergy-related absence costs employers millions annually

FirstCare records the absence details of more than 160,000 employees in the UK. Across them all in 2015, more than 17,000 days were lost to allergy-related absence. If this trend was to be extrapolated across the full UK workforce of 31.4 million,* the total days lost across the UK due to allergies would be more than 3.2 million. When you consider the costs associated with sick pay, replacement staff and lost productivity/revenue, this means allergies are potentially costing the UK economy £1.8 billion annually.** The average length of an allergy-related absence was 3.66 working days. To put this in perspective, the average length of an absence due to headache was 1.62 days, and diarrhoea and vomiting was 2.17 days.

Allergies contribute to other causes of absence

These figures are high – and they don’t take account of allergies’ contribution to other, longer causes of absence, such as respiratory disorders, gastrointestinal problems, colds, flu and ear, nose and throat issues. These are among the most common causes of absences lasting more than 7 days. In 2015, respiratory, gastrointestinal, cough/cold/flu and ear/nose/throat issues were among the top 10 reasons for fit notes. And this means allergies’ real effect on the workplace is even greater than £10.5 million.

Employees and employers must plan for peak allergy season

This chart shows you a monthly breakdown of days lost to allergy-related absence in 2015. As you can see, there’s a steady increase from April, and then it tapers off in Q4.

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There are 2 key takeaways from this chart:

First of all, you need to maintain awareness of allergies throughout the summer (not just during Allergy Awareness Week).

Secondly, the seasonality means employees and employers can take steps to reduce the impact of allergies.

In addition to being proactive about self-care and seeking GP advice on allergy management, you can take advantage of the wealth of resource from Allergy UK, a charity that supports allergy sufferers.

Organisations should also use the opportunity to review absence processes, making sure they’re publicising health and wellbeing offerings to employees and supporting managers with return-to-work interviews. A few hours spent on process review will pay dividends by reducing recurring absence rates.

* Based on the Office of National Statistics UK Labour Market Report: April 2016.
**Based on the CIPD calculation that 1 day of absence costs £544.

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