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Sick leave in the UK workforce hits 10-year high

Stressed out employee

UK workforce taking sick leave hits 10 year high

Workplace absences have reached a decade-high over the past year with stress as the major contributor, a study finds.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) conducted the research

Their analysis of 918 organisations with 6.5 million employees revealed 76 percent of respondents had taken sick leave due to stress in the past year.

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Aside from stress, Covid-19, long Covid cases, and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis were the prominent reasons for increased sick leave. 

The report highlights the need for employers to offer greater support to facilitate employees’ return to work.

It’s mainly because many firms grapple with recruitment difficulties and a shortage of skilled staff.

The study found employees were absent for an average of 7.8 days over the past year.

It’s up from 5.8 days in 2019, marking the highest rate since 2010. 

Rachel Suff, senior employee wellbeing adviser at the CIPD, said: “External factors like the Covid-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis have had profound impacts on many people’s wellbeing.”

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Long Covid cases spiked, with 50 percent of organisations reporting symptoms lasting two weeks or more.

It’s up from 46 percent in the previous year. 

Covid-19 remains a significant cause of short-term absence for 37 percent of organizations.

Mental ill health was the leading cause of long-term absences, cited by 63 percent of respondents.

Meanwhile, short-term absences continued to be driven by minor illnesses such as colds and musculoskeletal injuries. 

However, mental ill health was also a reason for short-term absences for 43 percent of respondents.

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Growing demand for remote work

This rise in sick leave coincides with a growing employee demand for flexible work arrangements, including remote work.

Caring responsibilities, increased costs, and workplace stress drive it.

A recent KPMG report revealed that 40 percent of UK workers are considering a career change due to rising living costs.

This reflects shifting employment priorities amid a challenging economic environment.

The UK’s low productivity remains a concern, with ongoing political uncertainty, high interest rates, and sluggish growth expected in the year’s second half.

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