Whether employees are missing work for a day or two recovering from a cold or away from work an extended period following the birth of a child, employee absence has an economic impact on employers.

Onsite clinics are one way employers are curbing the costs associated with employee absence, according to the Employer Measure of Productivity, Absence and Quality Survey from the National Business Group on Health and Truven Health Analytics. Over half (60%) of the employers surveyed offered an onsite clinic to at least some portion of their workforce.

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And employers offering onsite clinic access to 100% of their employees note an average of less than five workdays missed per employee in 2014 compared to employers without clinics, who reported their employee absence rate in 2014 at more than 20 days per employee.

Although some employers may think a grandiose set-up is required for an onsite clinic – with X-ray machines, pharmacies and a gaggle of physicians – they really can be quite simple to set up and maintain, says Karen Marlo, vice president at the NBGH.

“You don’t necessarily need a large amount of space,” she says. Onsite clinics can “just have one health care provider, often times a nurse practitioner on a part-time basis, to see employees who have acute issues like strep throat or ear infections [and fill] that kind of need.”

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In addition, she notes, many employers say they have used nurses for coaching employees on chronic conditions or helping manage health care issues and even to help with smoking cessation. “Some employers say that in the end, just that one-on-one relationship has made all the difference to employees,” she says.

And although the use of telehealth has been growing, it’s too soon to tell if it will have an effect on employers’ adoption of onsite clinics, says Marlo.

As for incidental leave – paid or unpaid sick days, unplanned or unscheduled paid time-off – there was a varying degree in the amount of time taken by industry, with employees in the health care sector taking an average of 12 days per employee to the pharmaceutical industry at roughly just a day of sick leave.

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The total lost workdays averaged six days per employee in 2014 for all industries, and for employers with thousands of employees that can equate to significant lost productivity, the report notes.

There have also been some particular challenges with the patchwork of leave laws across the country, Marlo says, as some states and municipalities require paid leave while others do not.

And while there is no current national law on required paid sick leave, Marlo says she’s heard the spectrum of views on the issue – from employers who want one national paid sick leave law to ease administrative burdens to others who say a mandated leave law would have too huge an impact on their business.

When it comes to long-term disability, the average annual cost per claim across all industries in 2014 was $9,546. Employers that offered a stay-at-work, light-duty or transitional assignment program reduced their average LTD cost per claim by 33%.

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In the end, Marlo says, the data on the amount of people taking leave and what it translates to in lost work days and productivity is “a real eye opener.” An effective health and productivity management strategy, the report says, can mean the difference between a high-performing, highly present employee population and one that struggles with low performance and high absenteeism.

The report was developed by analyzing responses to EMPAQ surveys from more than 100 large employers representing nearly 4 million employees.

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