Data from the ONS released on Wednesday reveals that an estimated 185.6 million working days were lost because of sickness or injury in 2022.

This is the highest number on record and a significant increase from the pre-pandemic level of 138.2 million in 2019.

The sickness absence rate – the percentage of working hours lost because of sickness or injury – rose to 2.6 percent in 2022, an increase of 0.4 percentage points from 2021 and the highest it has been since 2004.

All age groups experienced increases in their sickness absence rate in 2022, but those with the highest rates of sickness absence included women, older workers and those with long-term health conditions. Indeed, the number of days lost to sickness absence for those with long-term health conditions is now at a record high of 104.9 million days.

Brett Hill, Head of Health & Protection at Broadstone, comments on sickness in the workplace:

“After years of improving health in the workplace, sick days surged to a record high last year in concerning data which should raise huge red flags for employers up and down the country.  

“The rapidly declining health of the nation’s workers will have a devastating impact on productivity. Bosses should brace for an acceleration of this trend in 2023 given the current crisis in the NHS with patients struggling to access appointments and treatment in good time. It is particularly worrying to see the record absences from those with longer-term health conditions as the evidence shows those who are off sick for extended periods often struggle to return to the workplace, resulting in permanent loss to the UK workforce.

“Businesses are increasingly recognising how important protecting the health of their employees is now they can no longer rely on the NHS. Putting in place services like digital GP appointments or private healthcare options for their staff will be vital in avoiding absenteeism, maintaining productivity levels and thriving.” 





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.