While a social conference on the issue of low wages was “validated” at the end of August by the Head of State, another topical issue is more than ever on the agenda of business and government leaders: 'absenteeism. If the phenomenon exploded during the Covid pandemic - due to quarantines and contaminations -, the return to normal is slow to be felt. Worse, far from fading, the problem is growing, shows the fifteenth barometer of absenteeism and commitment, produced by Ayming and AG2R La Mondiale and revealed by Le Figaro.
The study first shows that the proportion of employees who have been absent at least once in the year reaches a record level in 2022, at 47%. In 2020, in the midst of the Covid crisis, the figure was “only” 41%. The absenteeism rate for its part reached 6.7%, up 21% compared to before the pandemic. Finally, still in 2022, the duration of absence per employee was 24.5 days on average over the year. As a result, for a French working population of around 22 million employees on permanent contracts, this would represent on average more than 1.5 million people absent all year round with a major impact on the organization of companies.
Certainly, Covid continued to play a significant role in 2022. The first months of the year were thus marked by the very contagious Omicron variant. The impact on French workers was all the more significant as everyone had largely abandoned the practice of barrier gestures at that time. But the pandemic cannot alone explain the current drift which is weighing on businesses and, therefore, on the finances of Social Security.
At a time when Bercy is struggling to find ways to save money, the government did not hesitate to bang its fist on the table. “We had 8.8 million sick leave in France in 2022, compared to 6.4 million ten years earlier,” protested the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, during the public finance conference. mid-June. Paid by Social Security in the event of sick leave, daily allowances cost 15.7 billion euros in 2022, up 13% compared to 2021, and 10.7% on average per year between 2019 and 2022 , according to the Social Security Accounts Committee.
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To slow down this explosion, Medicare has on the one hand intensified checks on overprescribing doctors, raising the ire of professionals. On the other hand, the executive is thinking about empowering patients. The main lever would consist of making the three-day waiting period compulsory for everyone (public and private), or even extending this period to seven days to limit short stoppages. "Passing back the Social Security expense to businesses is not the right method," insisted Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, then still number one at Medef, at the end of June. Faced with multiple outcry, the executive now lets the social partners take up the subject and propose ways to save money.
All stakeholders agree that a purely accounting view of the subject would be an error. “There is a problem of work stoppages of convenience”, but “there are also questions of malaise and malaise at work”, recognized this summer Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux. Business leaders are therefore called upon to look into the issue. However, not everyone is equally involved. To be convinced, just take a look at the significant differences that exist between sectors. Thus industry/construction and transport have some of the lowest absenteeism rates, even though they are also the most accident-prone. For example, industry and construction are only at 5.63% absenteeism, against 7.35% for health and even 7.65% for services, an absolute record in 2022. “Certain sectors, in particular the more accident-prone, were more alert than others on the issue of absenteeism, explains Sidonie Tulars, quality of life and working conditions consultant at Ayming. It started with the issue of work accidents before expanding it to other reasons.”
It invites companies to take up the issue as soon as they are recruited, by trying to understand what is important for the candidate and explain to them what is important for the company. The goal is to prevent areas of friction from appearing once the individual is hired and affecting all employees.
More generally, it is all the support that needs to be rethought. Because if an awareness is visible for employees returning from long-term absence, on the other hand, nothing is often offered for more punctual stoppages. “However, short absences, especially if they are repeated, can be the beginnings of a long-term stoppage”, points out Sidonie Tulars.
Those who are absent are not the only ones on whom greater attention must be paid. Current employees are also a sensitive population. Indeed, it is often on them that the workload that the missing employee cannot fulfill falls on them. Particularly during short periods, when the absence is not compensated.
For business leaders, it is also about employee loyalty and reducing turnover. An issue that will continue to grow in importance as unemployment declines and recruitment difficulties become more and more pronounced.