The number of sick days taken in the UK has fallen to its lowest level since 1987, according to new figures from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
The average British employee took just 6.4 sick days during the year, compared with 6.7 in 2007. It is thought that employment fears may have contributed to UK workers’ comparative unwillingness to take time off.
The private sector remains in rude health when compared with the public sector, which has a significantly higher rate of absence. But public sector sick days fell during the year, contributing to the overall drop.
But the CBI said even this low rate of sickness cost British business a total of £16.8 billion during the year. Of this, it is estimated that around £2.5 billion was lost to so-called ‘sickies’, where employees were not actually unwell.
It is predicted that the previous government’s ‘fit note’ scheme could go some way to further reducing the number of days lost to illness. The scheme replaces traditional sick notes with a report from a GP explaining to employers what the worker can and cannot do. Employers will be told how they can change working patterns or responsibilities in order to get their employee back to work.
But it is also thought that sick days could go up again as the labour market eases up. A recent report suggested that one in four employees are planning to leave their job this year, and this could push sick days up.