Sickness absence costs UK economy £100 billion a year as 650,000 phone in sick every week

In the UK, 650,000 workers phone in sick every week, costing the economy £100 billion a year, says a leading charity.

This rate of sickness equates to 2% of the workforce being absent at some point every week.

The British Heart Foundation calls on employers to boost their workplace wellbeing initiatives, as they release results of research carried out under the charity’s Health at Work campaign.

The research shows the highest level of sickness absence in the UK occurs in the public administration and defense sector, which includes public sector roles.

In that sector, on average, 51,000 call in sick every week, three times the level reported in primary industries such as farming, according to the CIPD, a professional body for human resources and people development.

Diabetes, heart and circulation problems make up 22% of sickness absence

The research reveals that 16% of UK workers’ health problems are related to heart and circulation, and 6% to diabetes.

The BHF also found that even when they are at work, many people’s ill health limits their ability to do their jobs properly. Nearly half (44%) of the people surveyed who had a health problem lasting more than a year, representing some 8 million UK workers, say they can’t fully perform their working duties.

The charity urges employers to do more to improve the health and productivity of their workers.

Sickness absence could be reduced with a change in lifestyle

Lisa Purcell, Project Manager of BHF’s Health at Work program says:

“Sickness absence is a major concern for the health of our nation and costs businesses millions of pounds every year. But it doesn’t have to be like this. The risk of numerous health conditions reported by workers, including coronary heart disease, can be significantly cut with improvements to their lifestyle.”

She says businesses that have taken up the BHF Health at Work initiative and made workplace health a priority, have generated healthier, more productive workforces, and lose fewer working days to sickness.

“But at the moment,” she adds, “too many businesses are missing this golden opportunity to improve the health, morale and productivity of their workforce.”