A recent survey by the temporary work platform Indeed Flex reveals that a third of them grapple with staff shortages every week.

The study, conducted among 400 employers, managers, and HR personnel, underscores the strain on businesses caused by the current staffing situation.

According to the survey, 34 percent of UK businesses reported being short-staffed at least once a week, with an additional fifth stating they experienced understaffing monthly.

The primary culprit behind these shortages? Sick leave, cited by 49 percent of businesses as the leading cause.

Furthermore, the report indicates a growing reliance on temporary staff to fill these gaps, with 38 percent of companies utilising more temporary workers than they did a year ago due to challenges in finding permanent staff.

This trend aligns with findings from a recent survey conducted by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and KPMG, which revealed a shift towards hiring temporary staff over permanent employees.

Burnout and Mental Health Struggles Amplify the Issue

Experts suggest that burnout and mental health concerns are exacerbating the problem of employee sickness. Lou Campbell, workplace mental health professional and director of Wellbeing Partners, highlighted the rising prevalence of burnout since mid-2021, attributing more than half of corporate counselling sessions to employees experiencing moderate to severe burnout.

Research conducted by Mental Health UK in January 2024 further supports these claims, revealing that 20 percent of workers had taken time off due to stress in the past year. Campbell emphasised the need for employers to provide enhanced support for their employees’ mental health, especially in light of limitations faced by traditional support avenues such as the NHS and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs).

Addressing the Root Causes

Simon White, chief people officer at employee engagement app Blink, delved into the underlying reasons behind employee reluctance to work overtime. He highlighted motivations beyond financial incentives, such as a lack of engagement or external responsibilities hindering employees’ availability.

White emphasised the importance of fostering a culture of inclusion and understanding within businesses to boost employee engagement and willingness to contribute. By creating environments where employees feel valued and connected to a larger purpose, businesses can potentially mitigate staffing challenges and foster a more motivated workforce.





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.