Sickness absence rates and costs revealed in UK’s largest survey

Source: XpertHR sickness absence rates survey 2015

The UK’s largest annual survey of sickness absence rates and costs shows that sickness absence was an average of 2.8% of working time per annum, or 6.5 days per employee, during 2014.

This costs employers an average of £16 billion, or a median cost of £11 billion. XpertHR’s research findings are based on data provided by 670 organisations covering just under two million employees, making it the most current and largest survey of its type at this time.

Median figures stand at 2.5% of working time, translated as 5.7 days per employee. These figures are typically considered a more accurate measure than the average (as the median reduces the influence of very high or low figures in the overall calculation).

The public sector has, traditionally, suffered from higher rates of sickness absence, compared with the private sector.

The trend continues with this year’s figures, with public-sector organisations experiencing a median of 3.5% of working time lost due to sickness absence – equivalent to 8.1 days per employee – while private-sector services organisations lost a median of 2.2% of working time, translating as 5.1 days per employee.

However, the research also looks at changes in sickness absence rates over time – from 2006 (the year the survey was first conducted) to 2014. This shows that the public sector has reduced sickness absence rates over time.

Noelle Murphy, author of the XpertHR report, says that while the public sector continues to have higher rates of sickness absence, this figure has dropped from a median of 9.4 days per employee to 8.1 days.

“Certainly, cost cutting will have contributed to fluctuations in absence figures within this sector, but we know that it is the consistent, proactive management of absence – through measuring, monitoring and intervention – that leads to a permanent decrease,” says Murphy.