The rate of employee sickness absence is rising

The CIPD has published the findings of its annual Health and Wellbeing at Work Survey 2023. It revealed that employee sickness absence is at the highest level reported for over a decade.

Here are its key findings:

Sickness absence

The average sickness absence, at 7.8 days per employee, is at its highest for over a decade. It was 5.8 days in 2019. Covid-19 is the fourth highest reason for short-term absence, and 50% of organisations had employees experiencing long Covid in the last 12 months.

Stress and mental health

Around 76% of organisations reported some stress-related absence, most commonly arising from heavy workloads and management style. 78% are proactively seeking to reduce workplace stress. Mental health remains the most common focus of wellbeing initiatives, including using employee assistance programmes, mental health first aid training, wellbeing champions, access to counselling services and promoting flexible working.

Presenteeism and leaveism

87% of organisations observed presenteeism (coming to work when unwell) and 63% observed leaveism (using time off, including annual leave, to work or when unwell, or working outside contracted hours).

Manager training

The most common challenge to employee well-being is a lack of skills and confidence among managers. Only 30% of organisations provide guidance or training for managers on how to support people with health conditions to stay in work; organisations are more likely to train mental health first aiders to support people with mental ill health than managers (66% compared to 43%).

Wellbeing strategy

Over half of organisations (53%) have a standalone wellbeing strategy, and the number agreeing that wellbeing was on the agenda of senior leaders remained high (69%). Financial wellbeing is receiving increased attention, with 57% of organisations promoting financial wellbeing to a large or moderate extent.

Menopause and pregnancy

Up from 30% in 2022, 46% of organisations include provision for menopause to a large or moderate extent. Nearly a quarter (24%) have a standalone menopause policy, 16% deal with menopause as part of a wider policy and 29% plan to introduce a policy. Up from 26% last year, 37% have provision for pregnancy loss to a large or moderate extent. Only 15% have a policy for menstrual health, but 19% plan to introduce one.

Source: CIPD: Health and wellbeing at work (26 September 2023).