Sickness absence rates nudge up

A median 2.7% of working time was lost to sickness in 2019, equating to 6.4 days per employee.

This emerges from XpertHR’s 14th annual survey into sickness absence rates and costs. The 2019 median is up on the 2018 figure of 2.5% (5.6 days per employee). XpertHR does warn however that with COVID-19, ‘it may be that 2020 will be something of an anomaly when it comes to sickness absence metrics’.

Public sector workers continue to take more time off – a median of 7.5 days per year – than their counterparts in private sector services who took 6.4 days. Manufacturing and production employees took 5.7 days off sick.

Among the changes being made to sickness absence policies in light of COVID-19 are:

  • paying all staff occupational sick pay when they are absent due to COVID-19 symptoms, irrespective of length of service or contractual obligations
  • offering full pay to those who have to isolate but cannot work from home, and
  • recording sickness absence due to COVID-19 but not including it for the purpose of assessing any absence triggers or targets

The cost of sickness absence in 2019 stood at a median of £568 and an average of £544 per employee. This, warns XpertHR, is unlikely to be an accurate measurement of the overall cost of sickness absence – more than four in 10 (42%) said they didn’t know if their absence costs data was accurate or not, and only 16% believe it is very accurate.