A report released by the Office for National Statistics has shown that last year 131 million working days were lost in the UK due to sickness or injury.
The largest number of sick days, 34.4 million in total, were claimed due to musculoskeletal problems. The second most common reason for absences were minor illnesses and the forth was stress, depression or anxiety, which accounted for 13.1 million days.
Women are the worst offenders for taking sick days overall. In 2011 women lost an average of 2.3% of their working hours to sickness while men in comparison only lost 2.5%.
It is interesting that the report analysis takes into account not only illness but also the level of motivation and pressure which staff feel to go to work, despite illness, in different employment sectors and scenarios.
Private sector workers are far less likely to take sickies than those in the public sector with 1.6 per cent of hours lost by private sector workers compared to a substantially greater 2.6 per cent by those in the public. Working environments where people were more likely to contract minor illnesses, as well as the higher percentage of women working within the public sector, were highlighted as two major reasons for the difference in these figures.
However the report also underlined that figures only reflected someone as being sick if they were working less hours than the number which they had been contracted for. Therefore the numbers did take into account hours that had afterwards been made up, something which is more likely to have been possible for those working in the private rather than public sector. It was also pointed out that those in the private sector may feel under more pressure to make up for lost hours if working within smaller organisations, which are more common in private than public sectors, and which lose less sick days per year than medium to large sized businesses. Those in the private sector may also face unpaid sick leave more commonly than those in the public.
Self-employed workers were found to have the least number of working hours lost overall. During 2011 the self-employed lost just 1.2 per cent of working hours to sickness. The reasons behind this would seem fairly straight forward; self-employed people do not benefit from the advantage of sick-leave cover and therefore have the highest motivation to work or lose out financially.
Finally the report looked at the geographical implications of sick leave to find that workers in the Capital take less days off due to illness than those elsewhere in the country. London employs workers from a younger age group, has a greater number of self-employed people and more private sector workers than other areas of the UK. As a result London had the lowest sick day figures with workers losing on average 1.3 per cent of hours whereas those in the North East and Wales lost the greatest amount, averaging 2.5 per cent.
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