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Workplace Sick Absence in the UK: Exploring the Impact of 2022 Trends

UK Businesses Tackle High Levels of Workplace Sick Absence in 2022 as Employee Health and Productivity are Affected

Darryl Horn, Monday, 6 February 2023 • 4 min read

The UK employment landscape has been greatly affected by the rise in workplace sick absences in 2022. This has presented challenges for employers as they try to manage the health and productivity of their employees. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), UK workers took an average of 4.4 days off work due to sickness or injury in 2022, an increase from the previous year's figure of 3.6 days. This article aims to explore the impact of sick absences in UK workplaces in 2022, and discuss strategies for effectively managing employee health and wellbeing.

Trends in Sick Absences

The increase in sick absence rates in UK workplaces can be attributed to various factors such as stress, burnout, mental health issues, and physical ailments like back pain and respiratory infections. Mental health issues have become one of the leading causes of long-term absence in the workplace, according to a study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). The study identified stress, anxiety and depression as the most prevalent mental health issues affecting employees.

Physical health issues like back pain and respiratory infections are also significant contributors to sick absence rates in UK workplaces. These issues can be caused by poor ergonomics, sedentary lifestyles, and exposure to infectious diseases.

The Impact of Sick Absences on Business Productivity

Sick absences can have a significant impact on business productivity, resulting in reduced output, increased workload for other employees, and lowered morale. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) estimates the cost of employee absence in the UK to be over £18 billion per year.

To manage sick absences effectively, businesses need to have robust absence management policies in place. This includes providing clear guidelines for reporting absences, offering support to employees who are off sick, and implementing return-to-work interviews.

Strategies for Managing Sick Absences

Effective management of sick absences requires a comprehensive approach that prioritises employee health and wellbeing. Employers can invest in resources and strategies that promote a healthy and productive workforce, including the following:

  1. Flexible Working Arrangements

Flexible working arrangements like remote working or flexible hours can help employees manage their workload and reduce the risk of burnout. This can lead to a reduction in sick absences and increased productivity.

  1. Employee Wellness Programs

Employee wellness programs can promote a healthy and active lifestyle, reducing the risk of physical and mental health issues. These programs can include activities such as yoga classes, healthy eating initiatives and stress management workshops.

  1. Mental Health Support Services

Providing mental health support services, such as counselling or Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), can help employees manage their mental health and reduce the likelihood of sick absences.

  1. Clear Communication and Support

Employers need to foster a culture of openness and support to ensure that employees feel comfortable reporting sick absences. Clear communication channels, compassionate support, and consistent follow-up can help employees manage their health and return to work sooner.

The 2022 rise in workplace sick absences in the UK highlights the need for employers to prioritise employee health and wellbeing. By investing in resources and strategies that promote a healthy and productive workforce, businesses can manage sick absences effectively, reduce costs and enhance productivity.

Workplace Sick Absence in the UK: Exploring the Impact of 2022 Trends
#workplacesickabsence #employeehealth #UKemployment #workplacewellness
This article was first published on 6/2/23.

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About the author


Darryl is a Chartered CIPD Member, business leader and operational manager with 30 years experience in on-the-ground and strategic HR, specialising in Human Resources Management, Employment Law, Employee Relations and Learning & Development.

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