UK staff sickness fell to half the rate of Germany in five years

Posted on 3 Sep 2013

Research from Dr Wen Wang, from the University of Wolverhampton Business School, has found UK companies reporting high rates of staff sickness fell to less than half the rate in Germany and France from 2004-2009.

Dr Wang will today tell the British Sociological Association’s conference on work, employment and society in Warwick that in 2004 around 17% of UK firms studied said they had high rates of staff sickness, but this figure fell to 9% by 2009.

In contrast, 24% of firms studied in Germany said they had high staff sickness in 2009, up from 17% in 2004. In France the percentage fell from 29% in 2004 to 21% in 2009.

The research analysed statistics from 2,620 private-sector firms with more than 10 employees in the three countries, as recorded in the European Company Survey.

Factors for lower staff sickness in the UK, up until 2009.

  • less overtime worked, with overtime earning extra pay rather than time off in lieu
  • more profit-sharing among staff
  • less variation in workload than found in German and French firms
  • good working atmosphere

Workplace absence reportedly cost British business £32bn a year, with even bigger losses in France and Germany.

“Strong employment protection and generous sick pay was empirically found to contribute to increased staff sickness in Germany and France. Employment protection is much higher and sick pay is more generous in Germany and France,” said Dr Wang.

“Our results also show that a friendly and supportive working environment can also reduce sickness, regardless of nationality.”