Sickness Absence Levels – A Steady Descent


It was revealed a while ago that the UK’s long term downward trend in absence levels has levelled off.  In order to get things back moving in the right (downward) direction , the government may need to consider further possible ways of reducing absence, alongside those proposed in the Sickness Absence Review.  This levelling off was highlighted in the annual sickness report published by EEF (the manufacturers’ organisation) who noted that within their data the long term trend had begun levelling off.

The EEF annual sickness absence report includes the largest sample of data from the private business sector in Britain and indicates that short term absence levels are still on a year on year decrease over the last five years, with a third of companies seeing a decrease in 2011.  The number of employees not taking any sickness absence also increased from 46% in 2010 to 51% in 2011.

In order to help minimise sickness absence in the workplace, employers often offer their workforce a number of benefits which help promote health and fitness.  These include benefits such as small business health insurance, gym memberships and wellbeing strategies at work to much success.


The EEF have stated that it is clear these strategies are paying off for employers in terms of sickness absence reduction.  However in 2011, overall sickness absence levels overall were not markedly reduced

Concerns were raised regarding the difference between short term and long term absence. Where unlike the former (which saw year on year decreases), long term absence saw increases across a number of companies.  Of those sampled, 40% saw increases of 5% between 2010 and 2011 alone.  Factors such as stress, anxiety and depression were one major cause of long term absence as these illnesses can take longer to overcome than many others.

Professor Sayeed Khan, the EEF’s  Chief medical adviser, believes that it is important to implement the recommendations found in the Sickness Absence Review produced by Dame Carol Black and David Frost in order to combat these issues.  Recommendations put forward in the document included further integration of the fit note initiative, providing additional training for doctors in regard to issues associated with it, and tax breaks for organisations investing in rehabilitation.

The long term reduction in sickness absence over the last twenty years are down to a number of reasons. These include advances in medical treatment, increasingly efficient diagnoses, and also the scope of health and safety legislation and its application.


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