A concerning trend has emerged within the UK workforce, with employees taking more sick days than at any point in the past decade, according to research conducted by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD). The study reveals that, on average, workers in the UK took 7.8 sick days over the past year, up from 5.8 before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The CIPD, a prominent trade group, has expressed deep unease over this increase in sick leave and attributed it to a trifecta of factors: mounting stress levels, the enduring presence of Covid-19, and the relentless grip of the cost-of-living crisis. These adverse conditions, the CIPD contends, are having profound repercussions on the wellbeing of the UK workforce.
This research, an exhaustive analysis encompassing over 900 organisations representing 6.5 million employees, was conducted in collaboration with Simplyhealth, a healthcare company specialising in outpatient support.
The findings of the study paint a complex portrait of the reasons behind this surge in sick days. Chief among them are minor illnesses, followed closely by musculoskeletal injuries and mental health issues. Covid-19, despite progress in containment, continues to exert its influence, being a significant contributor to sick leave in over a third of the surveyed organisations.
For those on extended sick leave, mental health struggles, musculoskeletal injuries, and conditions such as cancer and stroke are the prevailing reasons cited.
The CIPD posits that changes in the working culture precipitated by the pandemic, coupled with the harsh realities of the cost-of-living crisis, have left many employees feeling disengaged and overwhelmed. The shift towards remote work, while offering flexibility, has raised concerns for those living alone or facing limited social interaction.
Rachel Suff, Senior Employee Wellbeing Adviser at the CIPD, notes a noteworthy discrepancy between sick leave rates in the public and private sectors. Public sector sick days are nearly double that of the private sector, a discrepancy she attributes, in part, to the prevalence of larger organisations and frontline roles within the public sector, such as those in the National Health Service (NHS).
While a majority of the organisations surveyed offer sick pay and approximately half have implemented strategies to enhance staff wellbeing, the CIPD underscores that the rising trend in absenteeism necessitates a more robust response from employers.
Ms. Suff emphasises the need for employers to proactively manage the underlying causes of workplace ill-health and to intervene promptly to prevent issues from escalating. As the toll of stress, Covid, and financial pressures continues to reverberate through the UK workforce, it is becoming increasingly evident that a holistic approach to employee wellbeing is imperative for both individual and organisational resilience.