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Number of UK sick days rose fractionally last year

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An estimated 141.4 million working days were lost due to sickness or injury in the UK in 2018, equivalent to 4.4 days per worker, official figures show.


An estimated 141.4 million working days were lost due to sickness in the UK in 2018, equivalent to 4.4 days per worker, official figures show. It represents a 7 per cent increase from 2017 when 4.1 days were lost per worker, the lowest since records began.

Far from being a cause for concern, the tiny increase from an already low number of sick days should be welcomed, said Paul Avis, marketing director at Canada Life Group Insurance.

“The uptick in the number of sickness absence days taken by UK employees this year is a welcome contrast to last year’s data, which represented the lowest number since the series began in 1993,” he said.

“It hopefully signifies that employees are starting to realise the importance of taking the time to rest and recover from illness.”

The firm’s survey of 1,001 employees found nine in ten (89 per cent) employees went into work unwell last year. “Presenteeism is counterproductive as it signifies employees do not believe illness is taken seriously in their organisation, which has a negative impact in the long run in terms of staff retention and productivity,” said Avis.

“Employers must communicate the support they can offer employees to ensure they take time off when they need it.”

The ONS data release, issued on 6 November, said there were four main reasons for sickness absence in 2018. The leading one was minor illness, such as coughs and colds, followed by musculoskeletal problems, including back and neck pain.

The category “other” which covered accidents, poisonings and diabetes, represented 13 per cent of sickness absences. Mental health conditions were given as reasons for 12 per cent of sickness absences.

The total number of days lost through sickness absence has remained largely unchanged since 2010 (Labour Force Statistics / ONS)

The highest rates of sickness absence in 2018 were women, older workers, those with long-term health conditions, people working part-time, and those working in large organisations.

The groups with the greatest reduction in sickness absence rates since 1997 are workers with long-term health conditions, workers aged 50 to 64 years, and those in the public sector.

Minor illnesses was given as the reason for over a quarter of days lost in 2018 (Labour Force Statistics / ONS)

Although the sickness absence rate for women is higher, these four main reasons given for sickness absence are consistent for both sexes in 2018, said ONS.

Sickness absence rates are higher among older workers than younger workers as they are more likely to develop health problems. However, all age groups have seen a decrease in their sickness absence rate by more than a third since 1995.

Sickness absence in the UK labour market: 2018 here 

 

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