ONS report shows reduction in sickness absence levels

ONS report shows reduction in sickness absence levels

ONS report shows reduction in sickness absence levels

As Occupational Health Consultants, we see the effects of sickness absence every day. More importantly, we look at the ways that businesses can monitor and manage employee absence levels, and implement strategies that can help to reduce them.

In a recent report that analyses the sickness absence rates of workers in the UK labour market, the Office for National Statistics highlighted some interesting findings.

They reported that workers in the UK are taking fewer sick days than ever. In fact, they found that every worker across Britain took, on average, 4.3 sick days in 2016.

When you consider that in 1993 it had reached a high of 7.2 days, you can see that this is a move in the right direction. But it’s also important not to be complacent.

Why has sickness absence dropped?

It’s important to understand why this might be the case. Aspects that may have contributed include;

  • Changes in working conditions
  • A move away from heavy industry and manufacturing
  • Improvements in general health
  • An increasing awareness of workplace wellbeing

Despite these improvements, sickness levels still make a significant impact on productivity. An estimated 137.3 million working days were lost in 2016 due to sickness and injury.

The usual sickness suspects

The ONS data showed that one-off illnesses like colds and flu made up the lion’s share of sick days.

Despite this, short-term absences actually make less of an impact on businesses than conditions like musculoskeletal disorders, respiratory conditions and mental health issues. These account for almost 50% of sick days.

Organisations struggle to cover the workload of employees who are absent for four weeks or more. It’s also harder for these individuals to return to work after a prolonged absence.

An ageing workforce

While the figures showed a drop in sickness absence from 1993 to 2016, it actually increased for older workers.

The number of employees aged 65+ has trebled in this space of time. As a result, employers have had to be more flexible when it comes to working hours.

They’re also more likely to suffer from at least one long-term health condition.

A healthier workplace

The importance of good health in the workplace is increasingly becoming a focus for businesses.

Occupational health support, encompassing workplace health checks and health and wellbeing strategies, has resulted in the introduction of relaxation areas, flexible working and even yoga classes in the office.

If you’d like to find out how you can reduce sickness absence, boost staff morale and create a healthier workplace, speak to our team today.