Work absence at record low, but still costs £14bn a year

Posted on 15 Jul 2013

Absence from work in the UK has dropped to a record low, but still costs the economy £14 billion a year, according to the Absence and Workplace Health Survey published by CBI/Pfizer.

The Fit for Purpose report found the average absence rate was 5.3 days in 2012, down from 6.5 days in 2010 – saving business £3 billion.

Almost £1.8 billion were lost from an estimated one-in-eight sick days taken for non-genuine reasons, with one in five employers believing employees take “sickies” as an occasional perk.

Two-thirds of employers claim the new fit note system is not being used to its full potential. The fit note sees doctors outline for employers what staff can actually do in work – unlike the old sick note system, which simply signed people off.

Neil Carberry, CBI director of employment and skills, said: “It’s clear that the fit note fallen short of expectations and to date is not being used much differently to the old sick note system. Ministers need to listen carefully to concerns that doctors are not trained well enough to use the notes properly, with little understanding of the modern workplace.”

Mental health conditions emerged as the single most widespread cause of long-term absence from the workplace.

Mr Carberry commented: “The record low shows employers are getting much better at tackling the root causes of absence. But there is no room for complacency. Clearly, when staff members are sick, they should not be in work, but there’s a lot more employers can do to tackle absence at a time when growth is fragile.”