New research conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has unveiled a concerning surge in sick days taken by UK workers, reaching levels not witnessed in the past decade.

Experts are sounding the alarm about the implications for the health and productivity of the workforce.

Commenting on these findings, Sarah Mayo, a renowned workplace mental health specialist and co-founder of POINT3 Wellbeing, emphasised the pressing need to address these escalating numbers.

“The increase in sick days among UK workers is indeed concerning,” she said. “This is a clear sign that the mental and physical health of our workforce is under significant strain. The mental health challenges that many workers face, exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic and economic pressures, are manifesting in these rising sick day numbers. Employers need to understand that we must support a resilient and productive workforce, not only for output purposes but also because we have a moral imperative to ensure we are supporting each other better.”

How many sick days are we taking?

According to the research, employees in the UK took an average of 7.8 sick days in the past year, a stark increase from the 5.8 days recorded pre-pandemic. The CIPD has attributed this surge to a combination of factors, including stress, the ongoing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the escalating cost-of-living crisis.

The study further revealed that minor illnesses were the primary reason for short-term absences, followed closely by musculoskeletal injuries and mental health issues. Disturbingly, the research indicates that due to stigma and fear of being judged or penalised, individuals are more likely to conceal that they are taking time off work for mental health issues.

In light of these findings, Sarah Mayo emphasised the importance of ongoing support for employees and offered practical solutions for managers to enhance the mental health and well-being of their teams.

  1. Be available for your team with regular 1-1s: Regular one-on-one meetings between managers and their team members provide an essential platform for employees to discuss their concerns, including those related to mental health. Empathetic and non-judgmental attitudes are key in these conversations, building trust and engagement.
  2. Upskill in management and mental health training: Managers need to build their emotional intelligence and mental health awareness to effectively support their teams. Investing in management training equips them with the skills and confidence to lead with understanding and kindness.
  3. Identify and create support systems: Managers can foster open communication and empathy, recognising the unique needs of each employee. They can establish peer support networks or employee resource groups focused on mental health, providing a safe space to share experiences and coping strategies.
  4. Introduce mental health and wellbeing training sessions: Proactive mental health training, covering topics such as stress management, building resilience, and work-life balance, can empower employees to navigate the challenges they may face.

By implementing these initiatives, managers can help alleviate the rising trend of sick days and create a supportive work environment where employees feel valued and understood. With the implications of the pandemic still lingering, these efforts are essential not only for the well-being of the workforce but also for the long-term success of businesses in the UK.

 

 

 

 

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 the 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.