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2005 CCH Unscheduled Absence Survey

CCH Reviews Unscheduled Absence Trends Over Past 15 Years

Workers Most Likely to Call in ‘Sick’ at Last Minute for Reasons Other Than Personal Illness

Use of Programs to Help Employees Balance Work-life Accelerates

(RIVERWOODS, ILL., October 12, 2005) – If you are like most employees, the reason you call in ‘sick’ at the last minute has more to do with personal and family issues than it does with actually being sick, and it has been that way for years, according to the 15 th annual CCH Unscheduled Absence Survey by CCH INCORPORATED (CCH). Over time, U.S. employers have realized this and have offered an increasing array of programs to help employees better manage work-life demands. Overall, the results have been positive for both employees and employers.

“While the day-to-day demands of most jobs have increased over the past 15 years, the work environment is actually more flexible than it has been in the past,” noted CCH workplace analyst Lisa Franke, CCP, SPHR. “Businesses are constantly confronting change ― whether it’s the economy, competition, technology, employee demographics or other issues. They’ve realized that their workforces also have needs that evolve over time. By putting effective work-life and absence control programs in place, employers can help both their businesses and employees effectively manage these changes.”

The CCH Unscheduled Absence Survey, conducted annually by CCH for the past 15 years, is the definitive survey on absenteeism in the workplace and the only one that measures costs associated with unscheduled absences. CCH is a leading provider of human resources employment law information and software ( and is part of the Wolters Kluwer Legal unit.

Adoption of Absence Control Programs Continues to Grow

The average number of absence control programs used by organizations has increased from 2.7 in 2000, the first year CCH began tracking the number of programs used, to an average of 6 programs in 2005.

Paid Leave Banks are one type of program that more companies are turning to for help in curbing last-minute no-shows. Paid Leave Banks, also called Paid Time Off (PTO) programs, provide employees with a bank of hours to be used for various purposes instead of traditional separate leave programs for sick, vacation and personal time. These programs were used by just 16 percent of companies back in 1991. By 2005, two-thirds (67 percent) of companies reported using Paid Leave Banks.

“From our first survey 15 years ago, Paid Leave Banks have been rated as the most effective program for controlling absence. So organizations recognized this from the outset, but it took time for many to adopt these programs themselves,” said Paul Gibson, JD, SPHR, vice president of CCH business compliance publishing. “While some employers may feel they’re losing control by transitioning to Paid Leave Banks, the truth is they don’t have much control with traditional systems as the survey clearly indicates employees are not using most last-minute sick time for personal illness.”

The use of Disciplinary Action also has grown over the past 15 years, from use by three out of four organizations (75 percent) in 1991 to use by 90 percent of organizations in 2005. Other types of absence control programs at organizations nationwide over the past 15 years include Bonus, Buy-Back, No Fault, Personal Recognition, Verification of Illness and Yearly Review programs.

Striking the Balance between Work and Home Lives

As with absence control programs, the number of work-life programs offered by companies also has risen significantly – from an average of 3.4 in 2000, the first year CCH began tracking the number of such programs in use at companies, to an average of 9 programs in 2005.

The importance of effective work-life programs is apparent when considering that since 1995, when CCH first began tracking the reasons employees call in sick at the last minute, Personal Illness has consistently been cited as the reason less than 50 percent of the time. So, it’s more likely that an employee is a no-show because he has a personal need, a family issue, is stressed or just plain feels like he deserves a day off, than it is that he has a stomach bug.

“The good news is employers can put programs in place that greatly reduce the number of last-minute no-shows by offering employees more flexible work arrangements and by giving employees the ability to plan and take time off to accommodate personal and family needs,” said Franke.

CCH began tracking the effectiveness and use of work-life programs with the 1997 survey. Consistently over this time period, AlternativeWork Arrangements, Compressed Work Week and Leave for School Functions have rated among the top five most effective programs. Also often high in the effectiveness ratings have been On-site Child Care and Telecommuting.

Many of the programs rated as most effective also have experienced large growth in adoption. Leave for School Functions were in use at 8 percent of organizations surveyed in 1997 compared to 65 percent in 2005.During this same time period, Telecommuting grew from 6 percent to 53 percent, Compressed Work Week programs climbed from 9 percent to 47 percent, On-site Child Care grew from 4 percent to 33 percent and Alternative Work Arrangements rose from 24 percent of to 54 percent.

Where Do We Go from Here?

It’s promising that companies have been expanding the number of absence control programs and programs to help employees address work-life issues and, overall, it seems to be helping reduce unscheduled absences. However, companies should be cognizant that it’s not merely the number of programs offered but their effectiveness given the company, the environment and the demographics of the workforce.

“What worked for your workforce a decade ago may not work today. The economy is different, your competitive environment is likely different and so too are your workers,” Gibson noted. “For example, individuals may be waiting to start families, may be struggling with supporting both children and parents or may be staying in the workforce longer. Knowing the makeup of your workforce and your employees’ needs improves the chances of offering programs that will help keep the rate and costs of unscheduled absence in check,” Gibson said.

About the Survey

The 2005 CCH Unscheduled Absence Survey covering 323 human resource executives in U.S. companies and organizations of all sizes and across major industry segments in 46 states and the District of Columbia was conducted online by Harris Interactive ® from June 16, 2005, through July 5, 2005. The survey reflects experiences of randomly polled organizations with an estimated total of more than one million employees. The CCH Human Resources Management Ideas & Trends newsletter sponsored the survey. The data were weighted to reflect industry distribution as represented in the Society for Human Resource Management. In theory, with probability samples of this size, one can say with 95 percent certainty that the results have a sampling error of +/-5.5 percentage points. This online sample was not a probability sample.

Mean absence rates were calculated by dividing total paid-unscheduled absence hours by total paid-productive hours. Scheduled absences, such as vacation, legal holidays, jury duty, personal time and bereavement leave were not included. These costs to companies only reflect the direct payroll costs for absent employees; the associated costs of overtime pay for other employees, hiring temporary employees to cover for absent workers and lost productivity add to the considerable financial impact of low morale on an organization.

To Obtain a Copy of the Survey

To order the CCH Human Resources Management Ideas & Trends newsletter containing the 2005 CCHUnscheduled Absence Survey, call 800-449-9525 and ask for offer number 04509301. Price is $38.95 plus tax, shipping and handling.

About Harris Interactive ®

Harris Interactive Inc. ( is the 13 th largest and fastest-growing market research firm in the world, perhaps best known for The Harris Poll ® and for pioneering and engineering Internet-based research methods. The Rochester, New York–based global researchcompany blends premier strategic consulting with innovative and efficient methods of investigation, analysis and application, conducting proprietary and public research globally to help clients achieve clear, material and enduring results.

Blending science and art, Harris Interactive combines its intellectual capital and one of the world’s largest online panels of respondents, with premier Internet survey technology and sophisticated research methods to market leadership through its US, Europe ( and Asia offices, its wholly owned subsidiary, Novatris in Paris (, and through an independent global network of affiliate market research companies.EOE M/F/D/V


CCH INCORPORATED is a leading provider of employment law and human resources information for attorneys and human resource professionals. The CCH Human Resources web site is Headquartered in Riverwoods, Ill., CCH was founded in 1913 and has served more than four generations of business professionals and their clients. CCH is a Wolters Kluwer company ( and part of the Wolters Kluwer Legal Unit.

Wolters Kluwer is a leading multinational publisher and information services company. Wolters Kluwer has annual revenues (2004) of €3.3 billion, employs approximately 18,400 people worldwide and maintains operations across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific. Wolters Kluwer is headquartered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Its depositary receipts of shares are quoted on the Euronext Amsterdam (WKL) and are included in the AEX and Euronext 100 indices.

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