COVID aftereffects: British workers’ sick leaves hit 10-year high in 2023, shows survey

UK Office for National Statistics reported that 5.7 days or 2.6% of working hours were lost in 2022 as a result of illness or injury

By Web Desk
September 26, 2023
Morning commuters on London Bridge going to their workplaces. — Xbloomberg

British workers have taken the most sick days in more than ten years during the past year, adding to evidence of a long-lasting rise in different illnesses since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in 2019, as per a human resource study released on Tuesday.

According to a survey of several hundred businesses conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the typical employee used 7.8 days of sick time during the course of the previous year.

This was the highest in records going back to 2010, and it increased from 5.8 in the most recent comparable survey conducted in late 2019.

"The considerable rise in absences across all sectors is a worry. External factors like the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis have had profound impacts on many people's wellbeing," said Rachel Suff, the CIPD's senior employee wellbeing advisor.

While independent government data revealed a decline in 2020 as fewer people took time off for mild illnesses as a result of furloughs and other limitations, the CIPD did not gather comparable data on sick leave during the pandemic.

The prevalence of illness increased everywhere, but it varied greatly amongst jobs. Employees in private-sector services firms took about half as much sick time as those in the public sector, which averaged over two weeks. Compared to smaller businesses, large employers also report substantially greater absence rates.

Although minor diseases, accidents, and mental illness were all more frequent causes of short-term absence, more than a third of employers stated COVID-19 remained a significant factor.

In addition, more than a quarter of employers reported that stress frequently led to absences.

The CIPD numbers, sponsored by health insurance Simplyhealth and based on a poll completed in March and April, exhibit the same pattern as earlier published statistics.

According to the Office for National Statistics in Britain, 5.7 days or 2.6% of working hours were lost in 2022 as a result of illness or injury, the highest percentage since 2004.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic, the number of working-age persons unable to work due to long-term illness has also increased by about half a million, in contrast to other causes of economic inactivity that have decreased over the past year.