Sickness absence statistics: 137 million lost days!

The number of working days lost to sickness absence in the UK has fallen to the lowest level since records began – but analysis of figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests an ageing workforce and increasing numbers of part-time employees may reverse this trend in future.

According to the report, 137.3 million days – equivalent to 4.3 per worker – were lost to sickness absence last year, the lowest rate since records began in 1993. The level of absence fell for every demographic group, except those aged 65 and over, who were absent through illness for 2.9% of all working days on average.

Of the 137.3 million sickness absence days last year, minor illnesses such as coughs and colds accounted for a quarter followed by 22% for musculoskeletal issues and 12% for mental health problems.

Factors such as worker status, working hours and geographical location also affected sickness absence levels. The self-employed recorded a lower rate of sickness absence than employees, with figures standing at 1.1% and 2.1% respectively.

Public sector employees have consistently experienced higher rates of absence than those in other sectors, with the 2016 figures standing at 2.9% for the public sector and 1.7% in the private sector.

Location also had an impact. The UK’s highest sickness absence rates were recorded in Wales and Scotland– 2.6% and 2.5% respectively. Northern Ireland had a rate of 2.3%, while in England, the north east (2.3%) and London (1.4%) represented opposite ends of the scale.

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