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Sickness Absence in the UK Labour Market: 2022


Sickness absence is a prevalent issue in the UK labour market, impacting both employees and employers alike. In order to gain insights into the trends and challenges related to sickness absence, we delve into the Sickness Absence in the UK Labour Market Report for 2022. This report provides valuable information on the causes and rates of sickness absence within the workplace. Here we will recap the key findings from the report, shedding light on the impact of sickness absence on the UK workforce and exploring strategies for managing this issue effectively.

The percentage of working hours lost because of sickness or injury reached 2.6% last year, which is 0.4% more than it was in 2021. Lost working days have not been this high since 2004. Around 185 million lost working days due to sickness or injury in 2022, which is the highest on record. 29% of reasons for absence were due to minor illnesses. The increase in sickness absence was seen across all age groups.

The report highlighted that sickness absence rates remained a concern in the UK labour market in 2022. On average, employees took 5.7 number of sick days per year, resulting in significant costs and disruptions for businesses. The report further identified sectors with higher sickness absence rates, emphasising the need for targeted interventions and support.

ONS Statistics

The report identified various factors contributing to sickness absence in the UK. Common causes included musculoskeletal disorders, mental health issues, and minor illnesses. It emphasised the importance of addressing these factors through preventive measures, early intervention, and appropriate support systems.

A significant finding from the report was the increasing impact of mental health issues on sickness absence. Stress, anxiety, and depression were identified as major contributors to employee absence. There is a need for employers to prioritise mental health support by implementing policies and programs that promote well-being and foster a supportive work environment.

ONS Statistics

Providing training can be instrumental in reducing the amount of sickness in the workplace by promoting employee health and well-being, improving awareness, and equipping employees with the knowledge and skills necessary to maintain a healthy work environment.

Training employees in health and safety protocols help prevent workplace accidents and injuries. By providing comprehensive training on proper lifting techniques, ergonomics, hazard recognition, and safety procedures, employees can minimise the risk of physical injuries and subsequent sick leave. This training should be regularly reinforced and refreshed to ensure ongoing compliance. Poor ergonomics and incorrect workstation setup can lead to musculoskeletal disorders and related sickness absence. With more and more home working taking place after COVID-19, providing ergonomic training helps employees understand how to optimise their workstations, use proper posture, and practise ergonomic principles. This training can significantly reduce the risk of work-related injuries and promote musculoskeletal health.

Mental health issues are a significant contributor to sickness absence. Providing training on mental health awareness, stress management, and resilience can help employees recognise the signs of mental health concerns, both in themselves and in their colleagues. This training can promote a supportive work culture that encourages open communication, reduces stigma, and ensures that employees feel comfortable seeking help when needed.

Excessive workloads, long hours, and poor time management can lead to stress and burnout, ultimately resulting in sickness absence. Training programs that focus on work-life balance and time management skills can help employees prioritise their tasks, set realistic goals, and manage their workload effectively. This training can empower employees to achieve a better balance between their personal and professional lives, reducing stress levels and enhancing overall well-being. Workplace challenges and pressures can take a toll on employee health. Training programs that also focus on building resilience and providing coping strategies can help employees develop effective techniques for managing stress, adapting to change, and maintaining their physical and mental well-being. By equipping employees with resilience skills, organisations can mitigate the impact of stress and prevent it from escalating into sickness absence.

Our leader’s actions and efforts have a considerable impact on creating a healthy work environment. Training managers and supervisors in leadership skills, including communication, conflict resolution, and employee support, can contribute to reduced sickness absences. Well-trained leaders are more likely to foster a positive work culture, address health concerns proactively, and provide the necessary support to employees facing health challenges.

By investing in comprehensive training programs and systems, organisations can empower their employees with the knowledge and skills needed to prioritise health, prevent illness, and manage work-related stress effectively. The training fosters a culture of well-being, reduces absenteeism, and ultimately leads to a healthier and more productive workforce.

In addition to training, organisations can implement various strategies to reduce sickness absence in the workplace. Organisations can establish comprehensive health and wellness programs that promote employee well-being. These programs can include initiatives such as regular health screenings, fitness classes, nutrition education, mental health support, and employee assistance programs. By prioritising employee health and offering resources and support, organisations can proactively address health issues and reduce the occurrence of sickness absence.

Implementing an effective absence management system can be crucial for tracking and addressing sickness absence. Organisations should establish clear absence reporting procedures, including timely communication with employees and documentation of absences. By closely monitoring sickness absence patterns, organisations can identify trends, proactively address underlying issues, and implement appropriate interventions to reduce future absences. Occupational health services can also play an important role in managing sickness absence. These services provide expert guidance and support to both employees and employers, assisting in the prevention, assessment, and management of work-related health issues. There is a need for businesses to invest in comprehensive occupational health programs to reduce sickness absence rates. Regular health check-ups, early intervention, and appropriate rehabilitation programs can significantly reduce sickness absence rates. Accompanied with effective return-to-work programs can help manage sickness absence. These programs facilitate the smooth transition of employees back into the workplace after a period of absence. They involve collaboration between employers, healthcare providers, and employees, focusing on rehabilitation, gradual reintegration, and workplace adjustments.

Flexible working arrangements, such as remote work options, flexible schedules, and telecommuting, can help employees better manage their work-life balance and reduce stress levels. This flexibility allows employees to address personal needs, attend medical appointments, and manage their health effectively. By accommodating individual circumstances, organisations can foster a healthier and more engaged workforce, ultimately reducing sickness absence rates. Encouraging a healthy work-life balance is crucial for preventing burnout and reducing sickness absence. Organisations can implement policies that promote reasonable working hours, discourage excessive overtime, and encourage employees to take regular breaks. Encouraging employees to use their vacation and personal leave days helps prevent the accumulation of stress and exhaustion, contributing to better overall health and reduced sickness absence. Creating a supportive work culture where employees feel valued, respected, and supported is vital in reducing sickness absences. Organisations can foster a positive work environment by promoting open communication, providing opportunities for feedback and input, and encouraging teamwork and collaboration. When employees feel supported and engaged, they are more likely to have higher job satisfaction and better overall health, resulting in reduced sickness absence rates.

Engaging employees and recognising their contributions can positively impact their job satisfaction and well-being. Organisations can implement initiatives such as employee recognition programs, opportunities for professional growth, and meaningful work assignments. By fostering a positive work environment and ensuring employees feel valued, organisations can enhance employee morale, motivation, and loyalty, reducing the likelihood of sickness absence.

ONS Statistics

The Sickness Absence in the UK Labour Market Report for 2022 sheds light on the persistent challenges related to sickness absence in the UK workforce. By understanding the causes and implementing effective strategies, employers can mitigate the impact of sickness absence and create healthier, more productive workplaces. Prioritising mental health support, implementing return-to-work programs, investing in occupational health services, and offering flexible working arrangements are key steps towards managing sickness absence effectively. By taking proactive measures, employers can foster employee well-being, reduce absenteeism rates, and cultivate a thriving and engaged workforce.

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