The latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the average number of sickness absence days that workers are taking has almost halved since 1993, which is the year that records began. The figures show that workers took
an average of 4.1 sickness absence days in 2017, compared with 7.2 days in 1993, but sickness absence started to fall overall from 1999.

The proportion of working hours lost to sickness absence is known as the sickness absence rate. The sickness absence rate in 2017 was 2.6% in the public sector and 1.7% in the private sector. Public sector health workers had the highest rates at 3.3%. More
than a quarter of the days lost through sickness absence in 2017 were attributed to minor illness, such as coughs and colds. This adds up to 34.3 million days per year.

The ONS believes that sickness absence rates may have decreased as healthy life expectancy has improved over time, and that rates in the private sector could be lower as workers in that sector are less likely to be paid contractual sick pay for a spell of
sickness absence. Higher sickness absence in the public sector is also 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, and it’s more likely to employ workers
with a long-term health condition who are more likely to go off sick. The ONS also suggests that a contributing factor to the overall downward trend in sickness absence may be an increase in presenteeism, where people go to work even though they are ill.

Source: New feed