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 report excessive final yr, in accordance with official knowledge printed on Wednesday that can reinforce fears over the influence of unwell well being on the financial system.

Minor sicknesses have been the primary cause 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 situations had overtaken psychological well being issues to grow to be the fourth commonest cause 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 degree and a brand new report 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 very best degree 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 staff have been furloughed and social distancing led to a drop in minor sicknesses. Nevertheless it 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 Price range final month, UK chancellor Jeremy Hunt made boosting the scale of the workforce and lifting productiveness a key precedence for elevating financial progress. The figures will gas issues amongst policymakers that rising ranges of unwell well being, alongside acute pressures on the NHS, are holding folks out of labor and weighing on the financial system.

The quantity of people that say they aren’t 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 cause why labour shortages, and the accompanying pressures on wages, danger 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 very best degree since 2008 — in contrast with an absence price of 1.5 per cent amongst different staff.

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

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

Development in output per hour labored within the fourth quarter of 2022 was unchanged from a yr 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 printed on Thursday the Institute for Public Coverage Analysis mentioned the UK’s poor report on well being was taking an enormous toll on the financial 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 lower earnings by roughly £1,700. The drop in earnings for folks residing in the identical family because the unwell individual 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 shedding 10 per cent of extra of their earnings by way of leaving their job, slicing their hours or discovering themselves unable to re-enter work.

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