Warning sick days at highest level for decade

UK workers are taking more sick days than at any point in the last decade, new research suggests.

Staff took on average 7.8 sick days in the past year, up from 5.8 before the pandemic, the Chartered Institute for Professional Development (CIPD) found.

The trade group said the rise was a “worry” and blamed stress, Covid and the cost-of-living crisis.

These conditions were having “profound impacts on many people’s wellbeing”, it added.

The research analysed rates of absence in more than 900 organisations, representing 6.5 million employees.

It was conducted by Simplyhealth, a healthcare company that provides outpatient support.

The study found the most common reasons for short-term absence to be:

  • Minor illnesses (94%)
  • Musculoskeletal injuries (45%)
  • Mental ill health (39%).

Meanwhile, more than a third of organisations also reported Covid-19 was still a significant cause of sick days.

Staff on long-term sick leave tended to blame mental health issues, musculoskeletal injuries or conditions such as cancer and stroke.

Changes in working culture since the pandemic coupled with the cost-of-living crisis have left some employees feeling disengaged and stressed, the CIPD said.

Working from home could also present an issue for staff that lived alone or had limited social contact.

Most of the organisations surveyed offered sick pay, while around half had a strategy to improve staff wellbeing. However, the CIPD said rates of absence were still rising and employers needed to do more.

“This means managing the main risks to people’s health from work to prevent stress as well as early intervention to prevent health issues from escalating where possible,” said Rachel Suff, senior employee wellbeing adviser at the CIPD.

“It’s important that organisations create an open, supportive culture where employees feel they can come forward.”

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