The Office of National Statistics has released the latest sickness absence figures and they make some interesting reading for employers.
They show that:
- In 2018 141.4 million sick days were taken compared with 131.5 million in 2017.
- Employees lost an average of 4.4 working days in 2018 because of sickness or injury, this was a marginal increase from 4.1 days in 2017.
- The four most common reasons for sickness absence in 2018 were minor illnesses such as coughs and colds (responsible for 27.2% of days lost); musculoskeletal problems (19.7%); “other” reasons including accidents, diabetes, infectious diseases and poisonings (13.7%) and mental health conditions including stress, anxiety and depression (12.4%).
- Workers living in Wales and Scotland had the highest sickness absence rates in 2018, at 2.4%. In England, workers living in Yorkshire and the Humber had the highest rate, at 2.3%, while those in London had the lowest rate, at 1.4%.
- In terms of occupation, workers in caring, leisure and other service occupations have the highest sickness absence rate. This stood at 2.9% in 2018. In contrast, those working in managerial and senior roles (for example, chief executives and financial managers) have the lowest sickness absence rate, at 1.3%.
Tips for Tackling Sickness Absence
There are a number of steps employers can take to try to reduce and manage sickness absence in the workplace, these include:
- Making sure you have a sickness absence reporting procedure in place and that all your employees are made aware of it. This will help you to keep track of your employees and assist you to organise the work within your organisation when someone does fall unwell.
- Obtain evidence of sickness absence. For absences of seven days or less employees can complete a self-certificate, for absences of more than seven days a fit-note should be provided.
- Monitor absences from work. This will help you to identify whether an employee has what could be considered a normal level of absence for your organisation, a high level of frequent short-term absences, a pattern of absence or has been absent for a long period of time. Effective monitoring of absence will help you to quickly identify problems and address them appropriately.
- Carry out return to work interviews when an employee has returned from sickness absence. This is a meeting between you and the employee during which their absence is discussed. They are a useful tool to help you identify whether there are any on-going or underlying medical issues or whether there are patterns of absences. Talking to the employee will give you the opportunity to obtain additional information about their absence that you may not otherwise receive.
If you are concerned about the sickness absence levels of an employee in your organisation or you have an employee who is on long term sickness absence, it’s important to ensure you handle the situation fairly and reasonably. Whilst not every employee who has a high level of sickness absence will be considered disabled for employment law purposes, it should be borne in mind that those that are have the right not to be discriminated against. There is also a duty to make reasonable adjustments to assist disabled employees in certain circumstances.
As managing sickness absence can be tricky, it’s important to seek advice on your case before acting. Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd can provide you with practical guidance on your situation.
If you have an employment law matter you would like assistance with, please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are happy to help.