Employers may often feel that sickness absence is a major problem, but the latest official figures show it’s at an all time low.

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), 137 million days were lost due to sickness or injury in 2016. This equates to 4.3 days per worker and is the lowest rate since records began.

The ONS revealed the common causes of sickness absence.

  • Minor illnesses, such as coughs and colds, accounted for nearly 25% of the days lost.
  • Musculoskeletal problems, such as back, neck and upper limb pain, represented 22.4% of the days lost.
  • Mental health issues, such as stress, depression and anxiety, accounted for 11.5% of the days lost.

Some other interesting statistics revealed by ONS were:

  • Sickness absence rates are lower for men than women (2.5% for women and 1.6% for men).
  • Older workers took more days of sickness absence than younger workers. This is attributed to the fact they are more likely to develop health problems.
  • Sickness absence rates for employees and the self-employed were 2.1% and 1.4% respectively.
  • Workers in care, leisure and other service occupations have the highest sickness absence rates.
  • The highest rates were found in Wales (2.6%) and Scotland (2.5%). However, the rate was only 1.4% in London.

If your business is struggling with a high number of short-term sickness absences, download our Definitive Guide to Managing Sickness Absence to find out how to reduce short-term absences, dismiss malingerers and stop small issues escalating. 

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