Thursday, 28 September 2023 16:11

Slowing the Rise in Sickness Absence

This week, research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), which analysed rates of absence in more than 900 organisations, reported that sickness absence in the UK is currently the highest it has been for a ten years. On average, staff took an average of 7.8 days sick in the last year, up from 5.8 days pre-Covid.

The numbers underscore the impact of external influences such as the aftermath of the pandemic and the ongoing cost of living crisis. Such an increase in absences, largely attributed to stress and anxiety, carry profound implications not only for the employees directly affected but for their colleagues and ultimately the employers.

Whilst Covid is still very much amongst us, and we are continuously informed of potential new strains whose impact is as yet unknown, we cannot attribute the spike in sickness absence purely to the virus. Apart from people being physically affected by the virus, the ongoing psychological and emotional toll has been profound. Changes to work environments, personal relationships, and general uncertainty have amplified feelings of stress and anxiety for many.

Moreover, just as we seemed to be moving towards recovery, the cost of living crisis has reared its head. For many UK residents, the basic act of making ends meet has become a relentless source of pressure. With increased prices on essential goods and services, paired with stagnant or even reduced income in many sectors, financial stress has become a constant backdrop to daily life.

The relationship between financial wellbeing and mental health is well-documented. A tough economic position goes further than disposable income and can result in disrupted sleep, strained relationships, and reduced capacity to handle other life stresses.

As employers, we must take note of our employees’ wellbeing to overt the potential business impact that sickness absence threatens, such as:

  • Reduced Productivity: Obviously, with employees absent, tasks get delayed, and overall productivity diminishes. This can be particularly challenging for smaller businesses where every team member plays a pivotal role.
  • Financial Strain: Businesses often face direct costs due to employee absences, be it in the form of sick pay or hiring temporary staff. Moreover, the indirect costs, such as lost sales or reduced service levels, can exacerbate the financial effect.
  • Team Morale: Regular absences can place added pressure on the rest of the team, leading to overwork and, consequently, even more potential sickness absences, setting off a vicious cycle.
  • Reputation: In client-facing roles or businesses where meeting deadlines is paramount, frequent absences can impact client or customer satisfaction, potentially tarnishing a company’s reputation.

Clearly then, doing more in attempting to avert instances of sickness absence in their own organisations can only be beneficial for employers. Some pro-active steps to consider include:

  • Prioritising Mental Health: Instigate mental health initiatives and support within the company. You may already have insurance or a group health scheme that provides ancillary counselling services. Look up our own mental health training courses too.
  • Flexible Work Arrangements: Laws around flexible working will be changing soon so don’t get caught out and maybe be a little more pro-active in your approach.
  • Open Communication Channels: Create an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their challenges. This can help in early identification of potential issues and allow timely interventions. Confidentiality is crucial here.
  • Financial Guidance: Given that the cost of living crisis is a source of stress for many, offering financial literacy workshops or providing resources for personal financial management can help alleviate some concerns and help employees to plan.
  • Regular Check-ins: Managers should regularly check in with their teams, not just about work, but also about their well-being. Understanding the personal and professional challenges they face can aid better overall support.
  • Training for Leadership: Equip leaders and managers with training to identify signs of stress and anxiety in their teams. Again, our Mental Health for Managers workshop is a good starting point.
  • Encourage Breaks: Something as simple as promoting a culture where taking short breaks is normalised can have surprisingly positive outcomes.

Stress and anxiety-related sickness absences poses a continual challenge for UK businesses. However, with a proactive and empathetic approach, employers can make strides in not only reducing these absences but also fostering a healthier and more supportive work environment.

We offer a range of solutions that can support you with this. Just get in touch for a conversation about what we can offer you. Call 01452 331331 or email supportThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Read 612 times Last modified on Thursday, 28 September 2023 16:15


HR Champions provide first class HR and Employment Law support and advice to UK businesses; operationally and strategically. If you're an employer you'll potentially need some, if not all, of the services we offer.

We deliver excellent management and soft skills training suitable for all organisational levels. We are ILM and City & Guild accredited and Ken Blanchard approved.  





We are located in Gloucester in the West of the UK close to the M4 and M5 corridors. For a precise map and directions find us on Google Maps

We have clients all over the UK but predominantly within about an hour's drive time of our offices; in Gloucestershire, South Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Bristol and Swindon & Wiltshire.