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27 September, 2023

Employers urged to make wellbeing a shared responsibility as sickness absence has soared to 1o year high .....

Employers urged to make wellbeing a 'shared responsibility' as CIPD finds sickness absence has soared to 10-year high

The research prompts experts to call for a supportive culture, where employees can discuss health issues and access help.

Employers are being urged to make wellbeing a "shared responsibility" amid the news that UK sickness absence has hit a 10-year high.

The CIPD and Simplyhealth research found that UK employees were absent an average of 7.8 days over the past year – the highest rate seen in 10 years, and two days greater than the pre-pandemic record of 5.8 per day.

The Health and wellbeing at work report examined trends in sickness absence and employee health and wellbeing among 918 organisations representing 6.5 million employees. It found stress to be a significant factor for both short-term and long-term absences, with 76 per cent of respondents taking time off work for that reason in the past year.

The research also discovered that heavy workloads are by far the most common cause of stress-related absence (67 per cent), followed by management style (37 per cent).

When wellbeing is considered a shared responsibility or the responsibility of the employer, organisations consider wellbeing more “broadly”, and potentially with greater results.

The CIPD and Simplyhealth report found that organisations were attempting to address health and wellbeing issues in general through a variety of support, with 69 per cent offering occupational sick pay leave schemes for all employees and the majority (82 per cent) providing an EAP.

Additionally, the report said more than half (53 per cent) of organisations had a standalone wellbeing strategy, which Rachel Suff, the CIPD’s senior policy adviser, said was encouraging, however, “we need a more systematic and preventative approach to workplace health”.

“It’s important that organisations create an open, supportive culture where employees feel they can come forward,” she said.

Covid continues to have an impact

While the research found that the top causes of short-term absence were minor illnesses (94 per cent), musculoskeletal injuries (45 per cent) and mental ill health (39 per cent), more than two fifths of respondents (43 per cent) said their businesses were still taking steps to support employee health and wellbeing in response to Covid.

Half (52 per cent) of respondents stated that they did take measures, but no longer do so.

The most common reasons for long-term absence were mental ill health (63 per cent), acute medical conditions such as stroke or cancer (51 per cent) and musculoskeletal injuries (51 per cent).

However, half of respondents (50 per cent) reported employees who have experienced or are experiencing ‘long Covid’ in the last 12 months, up slightly from 46 per cent last year.

This comes as a report from the Society of Occupational Medicine, titled Understanding recent trends in ill health-driven fallout from the UK job market, found that, of the 41.6 million people of working age (16-64) in the UK, 2.5 million (1 in 16 people) were inactive because of long-term sickness.

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