The UK 2021 sickness absence rate increased to 2.2% from a record low of 1.8% in 2020, according to latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) research. The 2021 figure is the highest since 2010, when it also reached 2.2%.
The most common reason for absence was conditions classified as “other”. This category includes accidents, poisonings, diabetes and coronavirus, accounting for nearly one in four of all sickness occurrences. This was followed by the minor illness, musculoskeletal problems, and mental health categories.
The groups with the highest rates in 2021 included women, older workers, those with long-term health conditions, people working part time and people working in caring, leisure and other service occupations.
Sickness increased for all age groups from 2020 to 2021. The rate for those 65 and over showed the highest increase on record at 3%.
By location, workers living in Wales had the highest sickness absence rate in the UK of 3%. Those living in London had the lowest rate of 2%.
According to the ONS, the rise in 2021 was largest in October and December 2021. These months saw the end of the furlough scheme, and decline in homeworking, shielding and social distancing policies, plus the new coronavirus variants, also led to a rise in sickness absence.
A spokesperson for the ONS said: “After a record low sickness absence rate in 2020, with COVID-19 measures such as furloughing, social distancing, shielding and increased homeworking helping to reduce other causes of absence, the relaxation or ending of these measures, coupled with new variants of the virus, led to a rise in sickness absence from work in 2021, to above pre-pandemic levels.
The absence rate was last that high in 2021, and COVID-19 accounted for almost one in four absences.”
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Original article here.