September 25, 2020

PwC Can’t Make Up Its Mind on a Global Sick Leave Policy

ICYMI, PwC US Chairman Bob Moritz was in Washington today talking about flexibility and diversity and the importance of trustworthy fonts in autumnal color schemes at the White House Summit on Working Families (I made that last one up, obvs).

On his panel, this happened:

PwC explains their generous sick leave policy on their website:

Unprescribed sick leave
To assist employees in maintaining worklife quality, the Firm’s policy provides an unprescribed number of sick days for all US full-time and part-time staff scheduled to work at least 1,000 hours a year. What’s more, our policy allows paid time off not just for one’s own illness, but also to care for a sick child, parent, spouse, or same-sex domestic partner.

You'll note that policy is exclusive to the US. Across the pond, PwC got in hot water for canning a partner with depression (the firm claimed it was the economy and not the partner's mental illness that made the firm fire him) but was later cleared of any charges of discrimination. PwC UK also did a little deliciously ironic research last year that found sick days cost UK employers big bucks.

From the study:

Sick days are costing UK business nearly £29bn [$49.35 billion US] a year as UK workers take more than four times as many days off work due to sickness as their global counterparts, according to new research by PwC.

UK workers have an average of 9.1 days off from their jobs each year due to sickness. This is nearly double the amount workers in the US take at 4.9 days of sickness a year, and four times more than their counterparts in Asia Pacific (2.2 days) and higher than Western Europe (7.3 days).

PwC’s research shows that sickness accounts for around 90% of UK companies’ absence bill, which also covers compassionate leave and industrial action. The analysis reveals that while UK employees are taking less unscheduled absence days compared to two years ago (9.8 days in 2013, compared to 10.1days in 2011), the number of these days that are due to illness has risen over that time (9.1 days in 2013, up from 8.7 days in 2011) and so the associated cost of staff sickness has also risen. Sick days now account for £28.8bn of the UK’s overall £31.1bn absence bill.

We were unable to find anything about PwC UK's sick leave policy, except an employee manual from 2008 that stated you are allowed 15 paid sick days in your first year. The fact that PwC UK's sick leave policy was not up front and center on its careers website leads us to believe it is not nearly as generous as that of the U.S.

Reading the UK report, it seems as though sick absences are a major money suck in the UK. Not necessarily for PwC, just in general. Jon Andrews, human resources consulting leader at PwC, said:

“Absence is still a significant drain on British businesses. At a time when companies are striving for growth it is vital they address this cost by looking for ways to improve employees’ health, morale and motivation. Allowing greater workplace flexibility could go a long way to helping break the sickness cycle.

“Forward-looking companies will invest in health and wellbeing services to tackle the issue before absence starts to hit their bottom lines. This is particularly relevant for start-ups and SMEs, where the cost of absence can be particularly crippling.

“With the demographics of the workforce rapidly changing as many people are now having to work far longer before they retire, companies are likely to see a greater level of sickness if they don’t start addressing this issue now.”

Then, Jon totally goes off the reservation and throws his US colleagues under the bus (or, in this case, the ambulance):

“UK companies are still far behind their global counterparts in minimising the impact of sick days on their businesses. It is worrying that UK workers continue to take considerably more sick days than any other global workers. The combination of more flexible labour laws and a cap on the number of paid sick days in the US and Asia goes some way to explain their lower levels of absence.  For workers in the US and Asia, there is a sense that there is more at stake if they take unscheduled time off work.”

SO, Andrews' comment basically invalidates BoMo's. Which is it? Clamp down on sick days or trust your own people not to call in so they can Netflix binge in their pajamas?

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