Sickness and absenteeism rates in UK call centres are as high as 35 per cent and in some centres staff turnover is one in four, Patricia Hewitt will disclose today. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry will also announce the Government is to help fund a joint project with industry to examine ways of bringing down the chronic levels of absenteeism.
The Department of Trade and Industry is to provide half the £249,000 funding for the project, which will run for about two years. The project will focus on north-west England because that is the region of the country with the highest concentration of call centres - some 250 in total.
Speaking at a Union 21 conference in Congress House, Ms Hewitt will say: "The best British call centres are the best in the world. Far from being unskilled telephone operators, these are highly skilled customer service professionals driving business success. But we want to raise more of our call centres to the standard of the best. The key aims of this project are lower sick rates, better partnerships and higher productivity."
The project is being backed by companies such as Barclays bank and Argos and unions including Amicus-MSF and the TUC's north-west division. There has been growing concern over the levels of sickness in UK call centres - attributed by critics to their "battery hen" working environment.
The 35 per cent sickness and absenteeism rate in some call centres compares with a national average across all industry of less than 3 per cent, according to the CBI, while the 25 per cent rate of staff turnover compares with a nationwide figure of 16 per cent.
The north-west project will examine issues such as access to occupational health services and ways of improving the environment and processes in call centres.
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