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Absence Management: Sick Days - Fewer Than Ever Taken in UK

Sick Leave Absence Management News

CIPD fears lack of sick leave may be result of workers feeling pressured by job security rather than experiencing better health

New figures from the ONS show that the number of absence days taken due to ill health in the UK has fallen to the lowest level ever recorded, but this might not be the good news it initially appears to be, according to the CIPD.

The latest ONS (Office for National Statistics) figures show that in 2017, each employee took an average of 4.1 sickness absence days. The figure has been recorded since 1993, starting at 7.2 days, but has begun to dropl since 1999.


Several reasons for the reduction in time spent off sick were given by the ONS, including private sector workers being less likely to receive payment for illness, a rise in presenteeism and an improvement in general health.


However, Cary Cooper, president of the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development), believes that actual sickness rates are not represented by these new statistics. Commenting on the figures, he said ‘It’s not real. What’s pumping it is presenteeism. If it really was a drop in sickness absence rates, you would have a productivity rise. And we haven’t seen a productivity rise in years.”


When asked what he believed was causing this rise in presenteeism, he said “The recession made jobs less secure, and the rise of Brexit uncertainty. People think ‘I don’t want to be someone downsized, so I’m going to turn up even when I’m not well’.” He went on to say that presenteeism is so much of a problem because of the difficulty involved in measuring its impact.


Absence Management News Sick Leave


Of companies trying to combat it, he advised “Employers ought to be doing wellbeing audits to find out what their employees are perceiving about the workplace,” with “Are we creating a long-hours culture, do we have a bullying management style?” being the kind of questions organisations should be asking themselves. Mr Cooper further spoke out on the damaging nature of presenteeism: “Say you have the flu, but you’re afraid of staying off for four or five days. So you turn up and infect everyone- but you’re also not doing anything.”


The amount of time taken off due to illness varies between the private and the public sector too. Last year, in the private sector 1.7% of working time was taken off sick, compared with 2.6% in the public sector. The ONS commented, “Higher sickness absence in the public sector is partly explained by the profile of the workforce. It employs more older people and women, both of whom tend to have higher rates of sickness absence”.


We have spoken before about the cost of presenteeism, and it’s certainly counter-productive to create a company culture where staff feel obliged to work every day regardless of whether they are actually well enough to do so. Bodet’s Time & Attendance System can be used to ensure that staff aren’t working long hours, and our Kelio Visio X7 Smart Terminals provide additional communications opportunities, such as surveys, allowing you to monitor wellbeing levels.


If you would like a free demonstration to see all the ways that Bodet’s Time & Attendance Solutions can benefit your organisation, please contact us.



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