Main Content

“2020health is an important and thoughtful contributor to the health debate”

Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chairman, Health Select Committee


Employee Benefits How to reduce sickness absence

Reducing sickness absence is less challenging than it may first appear. Here’s how to tackle it:

Health and work are intrinsically linked. Worklessness due to ill health has huge, adverse effects on individuals, businesses and the public sector, and consequently the economy as a whole. It is an area of policy where England is falling behind other countries, so much so that the annual cost of absence to the UK economy is £17 billion, according to the 2012 CBI Absence survey, published in May 2012.

The economy’s recovery will be slowed by the burden of incapacity benefits and employers that have a weakened pool of staff, but there is evidence that supportive employers that treat their employees well and are prepared to be flexible have reduced staff turnover and increased workplace productivity.

Reducing sickness absence is less challenging than it may first appear, and many enlightened employers have adopted effective strategies. But an ageing population means a greater prevalence of chronic illness will affect those in work as well as those with caring responsibilities. Employers will need to reconsider their approach to managing absence because more employees will have some form of long-term condition or be caring for someone who does.