New analysis of over 2,000 businesses has revealed that the average business has seen a sharp rise in sick leave – with 30 percent more days lost in the last year due to short and long-term sickness.

The sick leave report, conducted by HR systems specialist, Access People HR revealed that the average business reported 133 days of sick leave in 2022 – up from 102 in 2021, 85 in 2020 and 92 in 2019.

Certain industries have experienced higher rates of sickness among staff – especially in hospitality and in the creative arts. Those working in accommodation and food services have seen sick days rise by 491 percent since 2019 – from an average of 19 per company, to 112.

And in the arts, entertainment and recreation industry, they have seen sickness rates rise 92 percent in the last three years following the pandemic, from an average of 20 per business per year, to 39.

The research suggests that those who are more customer-facing, and less office-based are likely to report the biggest growth in sickness absence, since they are less likely to rely on the ability to work remotely.

The industries that saw the biggest spike in sick leave in the last year:

1 – Accommodation and food service activities – 146%

2 – Water supply, sewerage and waste management – 135%

3 – Arts, entertainment and recreation – 66.7%

4 – Transportation and storage – 44.3%

5 – Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply – 34.6%

6 – Administrative and support service activities – 34.3%

7 – Wholesale and retail trade – 32%

8 – Construction – 32%

9 – NGO/Charity – 30%

10 – Information and Communication – 18%

The industries that saw the biggest spike in the last four years

1 – Accommodation and food service activities – 491%

2 – Water supply, sewerage and waste management – 271.4%

3 – Arts, entertainment and recreation – 92.2%

4 – Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply – 91%

5 – Transportation and storage – 76.3%

6 – Human health and social work activities – 57%

7 – NGO/Charity – 56%

8 – Manufacturing – 48%

9 – Financial and insurance activities – 47%

10 – Administrative and support service activities – 44%

The only industry to experience a drop in sick leave in the last year was real estate, which saw absences fall by 3.8 percent.

Charles Butterworth, managing director at Access People HR, commented on the research:

“This report into the status of sick leave in the UK highlights the importance of businesses adopting a robust HR strategy as a first point of call when it comes to reducing sick leave. This could include having clear policies and procedures, offering tangible support to those that appear to be taking excessive sick days and implementing a HR system to provide better absence management.

“This increase overall in the UK in sickness rates could be as a result of COVID-19, and people feeling that it’s more important to take time off for their health, with less industry-wide guilt attached to taking time off work and a nationwide effort to remove the stigma associated with the ‘badge of honour’ mentality.

“On the other hand, it may be that people are experiencing more burnout and long-term sickness following the pandemic, resulting in new highs of sickness rates. No matter what, it’s crucial that businesses act swiftly to identify the reasons for sick leave, and if they need to act.”





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.