Downward trend in sickness absence

Posted on 3 May 2011 by The Manufacturer

The average UK employee took five days off sick in 2010, compared with 6.7 in 2007, according to a survey by EEF and Westfield Health.

The 2011 Sickness Absence Survey, completed by 454 companies, also reveals that an all time high of 45% of employees took no sick days at all in 2010, continuing an upward trend that has persisted for five straight years.

The survey finds that companies who have trained managers in sickness absence matters are a third more likely to reduce their sickness absence. More than two thirds of companies are now achieving their sickness absence levels, compared with half in 2007.

Professor Sayeed Khan, EEF Chief Medical Adviser, says: “The continued downward trend in sickness absence is welcome recognition of efforts by companies and government to get people back to work. In particular, it is striking that the companies who have proactively contacted their GPs to discuss adjusting people’s working arrangements have seen the highest level of response.

“It is also clear that doing the basics such as training line managers and GPs in managing sickness absence pays dividends. If we are to see the trend continuing to improve and the economic benefit to the UK economy this brings, it is vital that government continues to fund the training of GPs in health and work issues.”

The introduction of government’s ‘fit notes’ last year appear to have had a mixed effect. Now, GP’s right notes which advice when somebody will be fit to return to work and what work they will be able to complete and various stages of their recovery. Government’s idea was to allow employers a better chance of getting people back to work quicker in some capacity. Only 17% of companies reported that this has been the case. However, the number of companies reporting GPs as a barrier to rehabilitation also fell, from 39% in 2007 to 26% in 2010.

The top reported causes of short-term sickness absence are minor illness, back pain, and other joint / muscular problems. The main causes of long-term sickness absence are surgery or medical investigations and tests, back problems, cancer and mental ill health. There has been a sustained downward trend in stress and back pain as causes of long-term sickness absence.