UK sick leave numbers hit critical

Employers have to make their workers' happiness a higher priority to stop the UK heading the European sick leave table, it has been claimed

The country’s workforce has more sick days than any other European country, and twice as many as the US with mental health issues the single most widespread cause of long-term absence from the workplace, finds space management software company Cloudbooking.

Gerry Brennan, CEO of the company says, ‘It’s a real economic concern, illustrated recently by health body BUPA, which said that over £29 billion is lost annually to the UK economy, with mental health cited again as the major issue.’

The consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) calculated in 2013 that the average British worker takes 9.1 sick days off a year, with the rest of Western Europe only at 7.3 days, while in the US the figure is nearly half that of the UK at 4.9 days.

Brennan adds, ‘The reports we have read in recent years on mental health fail to take into consideration the workplace’s bearing on many people’s mental status.

‘After all, when you are in a job that you don’t enjoy and feel unsupported and unhappy, the response is to stay away as much as possible.’

He cites a 2014 report by the University of Warwick which clearly shows that happy employees work harder, and are at least 12 per cent more productive.

‘Treat employees well, support them and they will naturally perform better, with less time off sick,’ he adds.

Also, more has to be done to promote allowing employees more control over how to manage their work and lives. ‘Allowing a work-life balance for workers means a workforce who are motivated, supportive and genuinely behind what their organisation is trying to achieve.

‘Britain’s level of sick absences is inexcusable; it’s time to create a supportive working environment for employees, which in turn will create a ‘win-win’ for the UK economy,’ says Brennan.

Further reading on employee absence

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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Sick Leave