Blow to productivity

The recent upsurge in influenza and dengue illnesses is taking a toll on productivity in the business sector. 

Executive director of the Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC), Sheena Mayers-Granville, disclosed that her membership has seen an increase in absenteeism for the last quarter of 2023, which has continued into this year. 

The concern was also shared by president of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) James Clarke, who confirmed increased submissions of sick leave certificates during the period.

“During periods of increased illness in the country, organisations often see a corresponding rise in employee absenteeism. While the BEC does not have official statistics on this, conversations with members have confirmed a surge in absenteeism during the last quarter of 2023,” Mayers-Granville said. 

“Employees either took sick leave due to their own illnesses or needed time off to care for their dependents. This increase in absenteeism can be attributed to the higher number of dengue fever and influenza cases observed nationwide during that period.” 

She added that under the circumstances, bosses were doing their best to accommodate their workers.

“Employers are increasingly allowing employees to take sick or personal days, recognising that they may not be the ones who are sick, but their child might be. The objective is to encourage honesty while still providing employees with the necessary time off,” she said.

Clarke told the DAILY NATION that some members were seeing more absences due to dengue fever. He said this was certainly the case at his own business. 

“It is certainly impacting people and businesses because there is no shortage of bugs going around. I know that dengue is rampant, and it is not something the workplace can mitigate against because people may not be getting it at the place of employment,” the BCCI president said.

“At my company (TMR Sales and Service Ltd) we do have some people out. It is certainly more than normal for this period, and dengue seems to be the illness that is circulating the most. It is the illness that is most concerned about because as I understand it, there are several people in hospital. At any given time, most companies would have about three people out, but we have more than double that at this time,” he explained. 

In its latest report, the Ministry of Health and Wellness said that up to last December 22, the total confirmed dengue cases for the year had increased to 428, with 2 105 clinically suspected cases. Type 2 remained the predominant serotype identified, followed by serotype 3 of the virus. This is a giant leap when compared to 2022, which had no confirmed cases and only 24 suspected cases.

 The outbreak of dengue fever began in October, intensified in November and continued into December. As of yesterday, two deaths have been reported. However, Mayers-Granville said the hike in absences may not solely be due to illnesses. 

“High absenteeism remains a concern for many employers. There are clear indications of sick leave abuse, with some employees having arrangements with their supervisors or managers to have someone on standby in case they are reprimanded,” she said.

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