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Record Highs In UK Workforce Departures Due To Sickness

Young woman having a neckache while working from home

A recent report has found many people are leaving the UK workforce due to long-term sickness. 

The study by the Resolution Foundation reveals that it has reached levels not seen since the 1990s.

From July 2019 to October 2023, the count of adults not working due to ill health escalated from 2.1 million to 2.8 million.

It marks the most prolonged rise in economic inactivity since record-keeping began in 1994. 

Despite a slight decrease to 2.7 million by December 2023, the trend raises concerns, especially as the UK remains the only G7 nation not to have rebounded to its pre-pandemic employment rate.

This trend notably affects younger and older populations, which could have long-term consequences on their living standards and career trajectories. 

The foundation's findings come amid observations from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicating that over a fifth of UK adults are not seeking employment.

The report also identifies a pre-pandemic onset of this upward trend in long-term sickness, which has persisted for over 54 months. 

This period rivals the previous record stretch observed between 1994 and 1998. 

The increase in claims for disability benefits, particularly the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), underscores the severity of the issue.

There is a 68 percent rise in claims from 2020 to 2024 and a 138 percent increase among those aged 16 to 17.

The escalating number of long-term sickness cases poses potential challenges for the National Health Service (NHS) and welfare systems.

This is because there is a high prevalence of mental health disorders and musculoskeletal problems among benefit claimants. 

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The Department for Work and Pensions noted the government's efforts to address economic inactivity.

It includes plans to introduce stricter fit-to-work assessments and enhance support for jobseekers, aiming to integrate 200,000 more people into the workforce.

This development follows the Chancellor's announcement of a £1.3 billion investment over five years to assist nearly 700,000 people with health conditions in finding employment. 

Shazia Ejaz at the Recruitment and Employment Federation (REC), representing the recruitment industry, said long NHS waiting lists "are a big factor for why not enough people are well enough to work."

She added: "Better infrastructure around transport, childcare and social care will all help tackle the inactivity challenge the UK faces."

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