Has Sick Leave Fallen Over The Past 10 Years?

Posted on written by Sam Barton

Surely we have all considered ‘throwing a sickie’ at some point in our working lives.

In the vast majority of cases employees genuinely are sick. This can be either physical illness or a mental health issue and it is the reason why we are allowed a certain amount of sick days before we need to get a note from our GP.

What are the trends across the country though?

Are sick days falling or are they on the rise?

2006 Compared To 2016

The reality is that the amount of people taking sick days across is the UK has actually fallen between 2006 and 2016. In fact, they are now at their lowest level since records began.

In 2006 workers took an average of 5.5 sick days off work per year and this has decreased to a mere 4.3 days in 2016. When records were first produced in 1993 this number stood at 7.2 days.

The majority of these sick days were caused by minor conditions (the common cold for example) while musculoskeletal problems came second and missing work due to poor mental health has risen by 23% in the last 5 years and came in fourth on the list.

Do The Numbers Tell The Real Story?

It is easy to assume that maybe people aren’t getting sick like they used to or that employers are providing better health and safety policies to reduce sick days.

If you look past the numbers, then there is a growing trend of workers battling through their illness rather than taking time off. This can be because of the amount of work they have to do and a sick day will only increase their workload when they come back or it can be a fear of a backlash from management if they take too much time off sick.

Many sectors are undergoing change and for a lot of people jobs (or at least decently paid full-time jobs) are not as readily available as before and taking numerous sick days can reflect badly on the employee.

What About The Self-Employed?

A trend that we already know is that the self-employed are far less likely to take time off work.

In 2016 just 1.4% of the total working time for self-employed people was lost to sick days while this rose to 2.1% for contracted employees. The fear of losing money without any sickness pay is a big factor in this.

The Guardian recently exposed the story that self-employed couriers working with Parcelforce can be charged up to £250 a day if they miss work through illness and are unable to get their shift covered.

Looking After Yourself At Work

The number of sick days might be down between 2006 and 2016 however it doesn’t tell the full story.

There is more emphasis on battling through illness rather than risk the wrath of a manager if a worker has to phone in sick.

It is important to look after yourself in the workplace and ensure that your employer has proper health and safety policies and procedures in place to not only reduce sick days but to accommodate them if they are unavoidable.

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