Sickness Absence ‘Down By 47 Million Days From 1993’

Average Worker Takes Four Days A Year Of Leave Due To Illness


New figures from the Office for National Statistics have revealed that the number of days lost to sickness absence has fallen by an estimated 47 million in the past 20 years.

According to the research, the total number of days lost to sickness has fallen to 131 million, which marks an average of four days a year per worker.

The percentage lost to sickness within the private sector was found to be at 1.8 per cent, compared with the figure of 2.9 per cent in the public sector. In addition, workers in London were found to have the lowest percentage of hours lost to sickness.

It also revealed that men have lower sickness absence rates than women, while sickness absence was also found to rise with age but fall following eligibility for state pension.

Jamie Jenkins, statistician with the ONS, said that while sickness has fallen significantly in the past 20 years, the fall has been levelling off since 2011 with “very little change over the past two years”.

Expert Opinion
Whilst sickness absence in the workplace is inevitable and unavoidable most of the time, employers have toughened up in terms of policing sickness, with appropriate policies and procedures in place. The fall in sickness absence, although welcome news, will therefore probably not come as a surprise to those prudent employers who have such policies in place.

"It is also not a surprise that hours lost to sickness are higher in the public sector, where there are often more generous sick pay provisions.

"It is also interesting to note that women generally have higher sickness absence than men and this may be because women elect to take paid sick leave, rather than time off for dependents when they have a poorly child or childcare issues for example.

"In terms of approaches to tackle sickness, we have seen a variety of tactics used. For example, larger employers have in the past invested in in-house counselling support which allows workers to get support on key issues which will help them recover and reintegrate into working life.

"In addition, return to work interviews used as part of an absence management procedure are always a useful tool as they allow an employer to ask important questions about the absence in a sympathetic manner – which often leads to an early intervention on key issues affecting their staff.

"Having the right tools in place can make a huge difference not only to absence rates, but to the overall welfare of staff."
Ami Naru, Associate

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