Workers' sickness levels 'at record low', official figures suggest

10 Apr 2017

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have revealed that the number of working days lost to sickness absence has fallen to its lowest level since records began.

An estimated 137.3 million working days were lost to sickness or injury in 2016, the ONS found. This equated to 4.3 days per worker – the lowest level recorded since 1993.

‘Minor’ illnesses such as coughs and colds were the most common reason for sickness absence last year, accounting for 34.0 million lost working days.

Musculoskeletal issues, including back pain and neck problems, were the cause of 30.8 million lost working days. Meanwhile, other health concerns such as stress, depression and anxiety represented the next most common reason for sickness absence: these accounted for 15.8 million days lost.

Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), commented: ‘We are really a nation of mucus troopers, with people more likely to go to work when ill than stay at home when well.

‘Sickness absence rates have fallen steadily over the past decade, and let us not forget that working people put in billions of pounds worth of unpaid overtime each year.’


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