Sickness absence with a silver lining

Sickness absence with a silver lining

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has just released its sickness figures for 2021. And they aren’t as bad as you might think.

In 2021 approximately 149.3 million working days were lost due to sickness or injury. Which sounds a lot but is the same as just 4.6 days per worker per year.

The most common reason for sickness absence was “Other” conditions, which accounted for 41.5 million lost days. This includes accidents, poisonings, infectious diseases, skin disorders, diabetes, and anything else not covered.  From April 2020, interviewers have advised to code any mention of Coronavirus as ‘Other’, when a supplementary question was asked.

Coronavirus absence accounted for 24% of all sickness absences.

There are four main reasons for sickness absence in the UK; these have shown the highest percentage of occurrences over most of the decade. The 2021 figures are:

  • minor illnesses (21.9%)
  • other conditions (26.9%)
  • musculoskeletal problems (13.4%)
  • coronavirus (24.0%)
  • mental health conditions (9.8%)

London had the lowest sickness absence rate in 2021 at 0.5 percentage points less than the UK average

If your staff are taking more than the national average, it is not necessarily a cause for concern. But you do need to know what they were off with and whether there is anything you could do at work to make them “less sick”.

Always make them self-certify (if fewer than seven calendar days off sick) and if they are off for longer, then make sure you have a Fit Note from their GP.

Don’t, as one company intended to, just ask for a Fit Note from those employees who they think are lying about their absence or aren’t performing.

Even if you only pay SSP, this is a government scheme which requires the correct paperwork for it to be paid. No Fit Note, no sick pay.

Sickness absence with a silver lining


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