Alarm raise

 Data and trends from the ONS and CIPD on sickness absence...


• 131 million days were lost due to sickness absences in the UK in 2013

• Minor illnesses were the most common reason given for sickness absence but more days were lost to back, neck and muscle pain than any other cause

• Mental health problems such as stress, depression and anxiety contributed to a significant number of days of work lost in 2013, at 15.2 million days

• These mental health problems exclude things such as manic depression and schizophrenia which are grouped as serious mental health problems and accounted for just 1% of the reasons given for sickness

• Sickness absence rates have fallen for both men and women since 1993 with men consistently having a lower sickness absence rate than women

• Women were 42% more likely to have time off work through sickness than males

• As people get older they are more likely to develop health problems and sickness absence rates tend to increase with age, around 2.0% and 2.8% of hours were lost to sickness for those workers aged 35 to 49 and 50 to 64, respectively

• Sickness absence has fallen for all age groups since 1993, but has fallen least for those aged 65

• Sickness absence is lowest for Managers, Directors and Senior Officials


• In 2013 the average level of sickness was 7.6 days per employee per year

• In the public services sector it was 8.7 days per employee per year

• Overall, two-thirds of working time lost to absence is accounted for by short-term absences of up
to seven days

• Just under half of absence in the public sector is short term, compared with over three-quarters in the private sector

• The annual median cost of absence per employee was £595

• The public sector is more likely than the private to rank stress, mental ill-health and musculoskeletal injuries among their top five causes of short- and long-term absence

• Two-fifths report that stress- related absence has increased over the past year for the workforce as a whole

• One-fifth report it has increased for managers and one in eight that it has increased for senior managers

• Public sector organisations were most likely to report that stress-related absence has increased

• Workload was ranked the most common 
cause of stress followed by management style

• Two-fifths of organisations have noticed an increase in reported mental health problems among employees 
in the past 12 months

• The public sector is particularly likely to report an increase


• Half of employees said they have noticed an increase in workloads in their organisation over the last 12 months

• This figure increases to 63% in the public sector

• Just under half of employees said they have seen an increase in stress over the past year, which is again more common in the public sector (60%)

• People working longer hours, and an increase in pressure to meet targets were reported by 35%

• 16% said they feel under excessive pressure every day

• Just under a quarter (23%) experience this pressure once or twice a week

• The main reason for feeling under excessive pressure was reported to be workload, followed by pressure to meet targets, management style and poorly managed change/ restructuring

• 67% of employees said they personally have gone into work in the past 12 months when they were genuinely ill rather than take the day off sick

• Just under half (48%) said being under too much pressure at least once a month makes them feel anxious or depressed


CIPD 2013a. Absence Management Annual Survey Report 2013. Online: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) & Simply Health.

CIPD 2013b. Employee Outlook - Focus on Employee Well-Being. Online: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

ONS 2014. Sickness Absence in the Labour Market, February 2014. Online: Office for National Statistics.