Record Number of People Off Work Due to Long-Term Sickness

UK Economy Hit by Record Number of People Off Work Due to Long-Term Sickness

Darryl Horn, Wednesday, 17 May 2023 • 4 min read

The number of people off work due to long-term sickness in the UK has reached a record high, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS report, published in May 2023, found that there were 2.5 million people in the UK who were off work due to long-term sickness in the first three months of the year. This is the highest number of people off work due to long-term sickness since records began in 1992.

The increase in long-term sickness is being driven by a number of factors, including:

  • Mental health problems: The number of people off work due to mental health problems has increased by 20% since 2019. This is particularly concerning as mental health problems are the leading cause of long-term sickness in the UK.
  • Back and neck pain: The number of people off work due to back and neck pain has also increased, with the ONS attributing this to a rise in working from home.
  • Long Covid: The ONS also found that an increasing number of people are off work due to long Covid, a condition that can cause a range of symptoms, including fatigue, shortness of breath, and muscle pain, long after someone has recovered from the initial infection.

The increase in long-term sickness is having a significant impact on the UK economy. The ONS estimates that the cost of long-term sickness to the UK economy is £100 billion per year. This includes the cost of lost productivity, as well as the cost of healthcare and social care.

The government has announced a number of measures to address the issue of long-term sickness, including:

  • Investing in early intervention services: The government is investing £1 billion in early intervention services, which aim to help people with mental health problems and other conditions before they become too severe.
  • Supporting employers to create a healthy workplace: The government is also providing support to employers to create a healthy workplace, which can help to reduce the risk of long-term sickness.

The government's measures are a welcome step, but it is too early to say whether they will be enough to address the issue of long-term sickness. The ONS report found that the increase in long-term sickness has been driven by a number of factors, and it is likely that these factors will continue to challenge the UK economy in the years to come.

Here are some innovative ideas that could help to reduce the number of people off work due to long-term sickness:

  • Providing more support for people with mental health problems: Mental health problems are the leading cause of long-term sickness in the UK, so it is important to provide more support for people with these problems. This could include providing more funding for mental health services, as well as raising awareness of mental health issues.
  • Creating more flexible working arrangements: Flexible working arrangements can help to reduce stress and improve work-life balance, which can help to reduce the risk of long-term sickness. This could include allowing people to work from home, or to work part-time.
  • Investing in workplace health and safety: Investing in workplace health and safety can help to reduce the risk of injuries and illnesses, which can lead to long-term sickness. This could include providing better training for employees on how to use equipment safely, as well as providing a safe and healthy working environment.

By taking these steps, we can help to reduce the number of people off work due to long-term sickness and improve the health and wellbeing of the UK workforce.

Record Number of People Off Work Due to Long-Term Sickness
Photo by David Mao on Unsplash
#longtermsickness #ukeconomy #workplacehealthandsafety #mentalhealth #innovation
This article was first published on 17/5/23.

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About the author

Darryl

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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