ONS Absence Statistics Are Food for Thought

The Office for National Statistics has published statistics on the sickness absence rates of workers in 2018 in the UK labour market, including number of days lost and reasons for absence.

The average number of working days per worker lost to sickness absences was 4.4. The four most common reasons for sickness absence in 2018 were minor illnesses (including coughs and colds), musculoskeletal problems (including back pain and neck and upper limb problems), “other” conditions (including accidents, poisonings and diabetes), and mental health conditions (including stress, depression and anxiety).

Matt Weston, managing director at recruitment consultancy Robert Half UK, commented: “As today is Stress Awareness Day, the latest figures from the ONS on sickness and absence provide a key insight into the wellbeing of the UK workforce and the potential for presenteeism instead of productivity and engagement at work.

“There are positive steps that companies can take to reduce the burden of employee burnout and stress in the workplace. Building a work environment where employees feel valued and creating a culture where employee happiness is championed is a key first step.”

Paul Avis, marketing director at Canada Life Group Insurance, said the increase in the average number of sick days taken per employee “hopefully signified that employees are starting to realise the importance of taking the time to rest and recover from illness”.

“Presenteeism is entrenched in our society, costing us up to £26bn a year, and the explosion of workplace technology means the need to be ‘always on’ can have serious repercussions on the health and productivity of UK employees,” he said.

“Our research shows nine in ten workers have gone into work while ill, with hours spent doing poor quality work while also running the risk of spreading illness to other workers.”

Mental health conditions were reported more frequently as absence reasons in the public sector in the private sector (10.2% absences compared with 8.1%).


Time and Attendance UK supplies an extensive range of workforce management solutions that cater for all the requirements of the modern workplace, including flexible working. This enables you to record your staff absences in detail, and to pay attention for potential problems such as presenteeism.

Additionally, our top-range WinTA suite features a Self Service Module which allows staff to clock IN or OUT, check hours, request leave and a range of other functions via their browser or their mobile phone.

With the mobile Self-Service Module, staff can call in from outside the office. The system can even record their GPS location when they call in, in order to make sure their location is correct. This makes it an ideal system for remote workers, freelancers, or roles with a lot of time away from the office such as salesperson, social worker or carer.

If you’d like to find out more about the range of workforce management and attendance solutions supplied by Time and Attendance UK and how we can help your company implement thorough and reliable flexible working arrangements, just contact us or book a demo.