Absence rate rises due to surge in UK Corona virus infection covid cases have cost businesses hundreds of millions of pounds.
A total of 2.7 million people in Britain were infected with the coronavirus last week, an 18 percent increase on the 2.3 million the previous week, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Industry leaders say smaller businesses and the healthcare sector have been hit hardest by the current wave. In some parts of the country, the number of NHS workers who have not contracted Covid has doubled in a week.
These Covid-related absenteeism have cost businesses millions. In the seven days to July 3, 1.65 million working days were lost due to Covid at an estimated cost to employers of £226.4m – a 23 per cent rise on the previous week, according to figures from GoodShape, an absence management company.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said the absences “come against a backdrop of rising material prices, supply chain disruptions and widespread labor shortages”.
Martin McTague, national chairman of the FSB, said: “Small firms are not like large corporations – they don’t have large teams that can easily redeploy staff when some team members are absent.”
He said the average cost of employee absenteeism for small businesses, including finding cover, topped more than £3,500 per business last year.
GoodShape said Covid-related absenteeism doubled across UK companies in June, costing employers £544m.
“As Covid recovers, the government needs to plan to re-introduce the Covid sick pay discount that proved so critical during the first waves of Covid and then again as Omicron grows,” Mr McTeague said. “Small firms should not be out of pocket if they support sick staff.
“A targeted workplace testing initiative for small employers whose staff can’t work from home – a smaller, more targeted version of the one completed last summer – could point the way forward, especially at a time when people no longer have supplies of tests at home. »
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) separately called for a “successor to the recovery loan scheme to be brought in as soon as possible”.
“This will help not only with the disruption caused by this current and future waves of Covid, but also with other cost increases for firms, including energy, raw materials and staff costs,” said co-executive director Hannah Essex. , adding that businesses face “another headache” as cases rise again.
According to a letter circulated to regional trusts earlier this week, the NHS has recently experienced “an increase in staff absences related to Covid-19” in the Midlands.
One director of a Yorkshire trust said The Independent that the Covid absence had “doubled in a week”, while a doctor at a Midlands hospital said the disease rate was close to a level where staff may have to be redeployed.
The A&E trust in the north of England has also seen a recent rise in staff sickness, with absenteeism rates approaching March and April levels, an NHS source said.
In the social care sector, Dr Jane Townson, chief executive of the Home Care Association, said increased staff absences caused by the rise in Covid cases would mean “some providers will have to stop supporting new clients”.
Optima Healthcare, which runs care homes across Kent, said it was experiencing “significant absences due to COVID-related illness” and its homes “are under pressure to find alternative staff through agencies that are very expensive or unable to to propose”.
Louise Aston, director of wellbeing at Business in the Community (BITC), a charity promoting responsible business, said Covid was having a “disproportionate impact” on sectors that depend on front-line workers such as healthcare and hospitality, which are “not have a choice of place of work.”
“For example, we’re seeing over five per cent of social care workers experiencing prolonged Covid, which is almost double the proportion of those working in financial services who are able to work from home,” she said.
Estimates show that around 807,000 people in the UK have been suffering from prolonged Covid for more than a year, while 409,000 reported that their ability to carry out everyday activities was “severely limited”.
A government spokesman said: “We have supported the economy throughout the pandemic by providing around £400 billion to help protect millions of jobs and will continue to do so.
“The statutory sickness benefit scheme has been restored as a temporary measure to support small and medium-sized businesses with increased absenteeism due to the Omicron option, but as we move into the next phase of the fight against Covid-19, it is right that exceptional support has ended .
“We are working with lenders to see how we can best continue to support the business.”