Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown a rise in absence due to sickness following a drop during the recession.
Looking back to when times were good prior to the financial collapse the ONS statistics for absence showed 2.5% of employees to have taken at least one day off illness leave the week prior to being surveyed. During the deepest darkest moments of the recession this figure fell to 2.1% in the first quarter of 2009.
As we are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel we have seen the figure rise again to 2.5% of employees in the Q4 of 2010.
These figures are quite appropriate given David Cameron’s recent announcement to review sickness absence in the UK. David Cameron wants UK employees who are in work to stay fit, healthy and productive, part of the reason for this review is the statistics which show half of the people who are now in long term unemployment began by being signed off of work due to sickness.
On average 613,000 employees are sick from work every week, this equated to 2 million working days being lost in Q4 of 2010. There is some disparity between male and female sickness rates with 2.1% of male employees and 2.9% of female employees being absent from work in the last three months of 2010.
Where the top reason for men to be out of work was musculoskeletal problems the main reason for women was made up of stress, depression and anxiety.
The most interesting of the statistics to be brought to light was the gap between public and private sector sickness rates, it was at its greatest disparity in Q4 of 2008. At the lowest point of sickness absence during the recession the private sector bottomed out at 1.9% of employees where for the public sector this figure was up at 2.4%.
The scale of the number of days lost when you look across the length and breadth of the UK is huge. We all need to consider how we can help reduce our own absence levels. We need to move from a reactive state trying to fix the problem when it occurs to a more pro-active approach implementing measures to prevent problems from occurring.
With employee absence on the rise, employers have got to take a long hard look in the mirror and ask themselves why. Are staff overworked and undervalued, leading to increased stress and burnout? Is intervention required by employers, perhaps with the introduction of a comprehensive employee benefits package? These have been shown to assist and transition absent workers back into the workplace with time and care.
Head of Employee Benefits at Drewberry
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