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One billion man hours lost to sickies across Europe each year


€ 40 billion+ potential cost to European employers

London - Across Europe, more than 120 million* sick days a year are actually taken for personal reasons rather than for an illness according to Aon Consulting, the leading employee risk and benefits management firm. More than one in ten people (15%) say the last time they took a day off from work as sick leave they were only feigning illness, according to a survey of over 7,500 European workers. Additionally, 10% of people took their last sick day in order to look after a family member.

This research is part of the Aon Consulting European Employee Benefits Benchmark, a survey of more than 7,500 workers from across Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the UK, ten of the leading economies in Europe. The Benchmark focuses on the views of workers across Europe on topics such as retirement, employee benefits and other pension-related issues.

More than 800 million sick days are taken each year**, and assuming the average work day is 8 hours long, Europe’s ‘sickies’, the practice of feigning illness to avoid work, are costing employers close to a billion hours*** in lost man hours. Taking the size of the workforce in each of the ten countries surveyed and applying the percentage of fictitious sick leave (15%) multiplied by the average wage cost of sick leave for employers brings the total cost to an incredible €40 billion****. The number of sickies this year are expected to have increased with many people taking time off work in order to watch the World Cup.

The Spanish are the most likely to admit having taken a sickie (22%), followed by UK workers, the Irish (both 21%) and the Dutch (20%). The Danish (4%), the Norwegians (10%) are the least likely to have taken a sick day off from work under false pretences.

Peter Abelskamp, Director of health and benefits EMEA, at Aon Consulting commented: “A billion hours taken as fictitious sick leave across Europe and the associated financial cost for businesses are probably conservative figures, considering the number of people who don’t admit to faking sickness and the fact that these costs only account for direct wages. Employers would be well advised to tackle the issues of sickness and workplace absence, as these seriously impact efficiency and hit their balance sheets.

“56% of workers say they would not feel forced to take a day as sick leave if they could just be honest and have access to flexible working hours or ‘social days’. Of course employers should also not ignore the fact that 15% of people say that more interesting work would keep them in the office.

“The economic turmoil facing Europe has probably reduced the number of sick days taken, as 11% of people say the threat of redundancy would actually force them to cut down the number of days off for non-medical reasons. Perhaps not surprisingly, nearly a quarter of respondents say a cash incentive on top of their salary would also encourage them to come in to work.”

According to Aon’s research, the top five things which would encourage Europeans to take less time off work include:

• Benefit of social days to take for non-medical, personal reasons (31%)
• Provision of flexible working (27%)
• Substantial cash incentive (25%)
• Provision of on-site medical care (19%)
• More interesting work (15%)

Aon Consulting recently launched the European Sick Leave Index, allowing companies to measure the cost of sickness and absence and compare it to their national averages. To participate, visit the European Sick Leave Index webpage.


Notes to Editors
**Based on the data from the European Sick Leave Index on the minimum number of sick leave days on average per employee
****calculation based on the Aon European Sick Leave Index data / wage cost sick leave

About Aon Consulting
Aon Consulting is among the top global human capital consulting firms, with more than 6,300 professionals in 229 offices worldwide. The firm works with organisations to improve business performance and shape the workplace of the future through employee benefits, talent management and rewards strategies and solutions. Aon Consulting was named the best employee benefit consulting firm by the readers of Business Insurance magazine in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. For more information on Aon Consulting, please visit

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