Research by the “Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD)” reveals that UK workers have experienced a significant increase in sick days over the past year, reaching the highest levels in the last decade. On average, employees took 7.8 sick days, up from 5.8 before the pandemic.
The rise in sick days is attributed to various factors, including stress, the ongoing COVID-19 situation, and the cost-of-living crisis. According to the CIPD, these conditions have had a detrimental impact on the wellbeing of many individuals.
The research, which analyzed absence rates in over 900 organizations representing 6.5 million employees, was conducted by Simplyhealth, a healthcare company providing outpatient support. It found that minor illnesses were the primary reason for short-term absences, followed by musculoskeletal injuries and mental health issues. Furthermore, over a third of organisations reported that COVID-19 continued to be a significant cause of sick leave.
Employees on long-term sick leave often attribute their absence to mental health problems, musculoskeletal injuries, or serious conditions such as cancer and stroke.
The CIPD suggests that changes in working culture during the pandemic, coupled with the cost-of-living crisis, have led to disengagement and increased stress among employees. The shift to remote work has also posed challenges for individuals living alone or with limited social contact.
Although most surveyed organisations provided sick pay and around half had strategies in place to improve employee wellbeing, the CIPD highlights that absence rates are still rising. They emphasise the need for employers to take more action in managing the main health risks associated with work, particularly stress, and to intervene early to prevent health issues from worsening.
Rachel Suff, senior employee wellbeing adviser at the CIPD, emphasised the importance of creating open and supportive workplace cultures where employees feel comfortable coming forward with their concerns.
In summary, the UK has experienced a significant increase in sick days over the past year, with stress, COVID-19, and economic challenges being identified as key factors. The CIPD calls on employers to address these issues proactively to support their employees’ wellbeing.