Biggest leap in sickness absence levels for 20 years

Official
figures released this week show that more working days are being lost because
of sickness absence than ever before.

Figures
from the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Labour Force Survey reveal that
almost 2.2 million working days were lost to sickness in autumn 2001, compared
to 1.9 million days the previous summer.

It is
the first significant increase in absence levels for 20 years. The figures had
been static at just under two million days lost to sickness.

The
research reveals that women are more likely to be on sick leave than men. Absence
levels among female employees at 3.8 per cent on average compared to 3 per cent
for male staff.

According
to the survey, younger staff have the highest levels of absence. Men aged 25 to
29 years old and women in the 20 to 24 age group are most likely to take time
off work.

John
Knell, director of research at the Work Foundation, said the ONS findings tie
in with the general downturn in employee satisfaction revealed in the
organisation’s Working in Britain Survey.

“The
fact that [sickness absence levels] increased is significant and it might
reflect staff satisfaction levels. The largest increases in dissatisfaction
levels between 1992 and 2000 were for workload and working hours,” he said.

“According
to our survey the number of people who only work as hard as they have to has
doubled and one avenue for dissatisfaction is sick days.”

www.statistics.gov.uk

By Ross Wigham

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