UK lost record number of working days to sickness in 2022, says ONS

The variety of working days misplaced to illness within the UK hit a document excessive final 12 months, in accordance with official knowledge revealed on Wednesday that may reinforce fears over the influence of in poor health well being on the economic system.

Minor sicknesses have been the primary motive for folks to take illness absence, though Covid-19 was nonetheless an enormous issue, the Workplace for Nationwide Statistics mentioned. The ONS additionally famous that respiratory circumstances had overtaken psychological well being issues to turn out to be the fourth most typical motive for illness.

It estimated the variety of working days misplaced due to illness or damage in 2022 at 185.6mn, 47.4mn greater than the pre-pandemic stage and a brand new document excessive.

The speed of illness absence — or the share of working hours misplaced due to illness or damage — rose to 2.6 per cent in 2022, up from 2.2 per cent in 2021 and the best stage since 2004, in accordance with the ONS.

The rise is a pointy bounceback from the low ranges of absence on the peak of the pandemic when many employees have been furloughed and social distancing led to a drop in minor sicknesses. But it surely additionally marks a worrying reversal within the long-term pattern: illness charges have been in decline for the reason that Nineteen Nineties, reflecting the altering nature of labor, and had been comparatively flat within the years main as much as the pandemic.

In his Finances final month, UK chancellor Jeremy Hunt made boosting the dimensions of the workforce and lifting productiveness a key precedence for elevating financial development. The figures will gas issues amongst policymakers that rising ranges of in poor health well being, alongside acute pressures on the NHS, are maintaining folks out of labor and weighing on the economic system.

The quantity of people that say they don’t seem to be working or job-seeking due to a long-term well being situation has elevated by half 1,000,000 since 2019.

The Financial institution of England’s Financial Coverage Committee, which units rates of interest, thinks that bounce is one motive why labour shortages, and the accompanying pressures on wages, threat making excessive inflation extra persistent within the UK than elsewhere.

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The variety of folks in work who’ve a long-term well being situation has additionally risen. Wednesday’s figures confirmed that the speed of illness absence for this group rose to 4.9 per cent in 2022 — the best stage since 2008 — in contrast with an absence fee of 1.5 per cent amongst different employees.

Paul Nowak, basic secretary of the Trades Union Congress, the umbrella physique for the UK labour motion, mentioned even this knowledge was sure to understate the true stage of illness as a result of many low-paid employees weren’t eligible for sick pay and others couldn’t get by on the “miserly” fee of statutory sick pay.

Separate knowledge launched by the ONS confirmed there was no enchancment final 12 months within the UK’s persistently weak productiveness — the important thing issue that determines dwelling requirements over the long run.

Progress in output per hour labored within the fourth quarter of 2022 was unchanged from a 12 months earlier, the ONS mentioned. Output per employee and per job have been, respectively, 0.2 per cent and 0.3 per cent decrease.

In the meantime, in a report revealed on Thursday the Institute for Public Coverage Analysis mentioned the UK’s poor document on well being was taking an enormous toll on the economic system.

The think-tank discovered that, since 2020, somebody with a brand new bodily sickness had skilled a median of fall of about £1,400 of their annual earnings, whereas the onset of a psychological sickness reduce earnings by roughly £1,700. The drop in earnings for folks dwelling in the identical family because the unwell particular person was £1,200.

Though these prices have been decrease than within the 5 years main as much as the pandemic, the IPPR mentioned they have been “life-changing” for a lot of, with two-fifths of individuals affected dropping 10 per cent of extra of their earnings via leaving their job, chopping their hours or discovering themselves unable to re-enter work.

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