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Employee sickness absence rates stabilising

5.6 days per employee were lost to sickness in 2018

A median 2.5% of working time was lost to sickness in 2018, equivalent to 5.6 days per employee across the UK, figures show.

Sickness absence rates have not been above a median of 3% since 2010 and this is the second consecutive year that the median has been recorded as 2.5%, according to XpertHR.

Among private-sector-services organisations, sickness absence was recorded at a median 2.2% of working time, or five days per employee.

Public-sector organisations saw absence rates drop in 2018 to 3.8% of working time from a median 4.3% in 2017. This translates to 8.6 days per employee, down from 9.8 days in 2017.

Among manufacturing and production organisations absence rates remained the same as 2017 – a median 2.4% of working time, or 5.4 days.

Almost one in three (32%) organisations said their sickness absence rate had decreased. The reasons included more emphasis on absence management through the development of line manager skills; changes to sickness absence policies, including introducing return-to-work interviews; and introducing a more flexible approach to time off for personal issues.

The cost of sickness stands at a median of £517 and an average of £573 per employee per year. However, just 14% of those providing figures believe their figures are very accurate.

Noelle Murphy, XpertHR’s senior HR practice editor, said employers continue to underestimate the total cost of sickness absence, which in turn diminishes their ability to engage line managers in this area.

“While sickness absence levels are enjoying a period of relative stability, employers still need to keep managing sickness absence at the forefront of people management, continuing to grow the skills and confidence of line managers in this area,” she added.