Sick day absence falls by 27 per cent over 20 years

The Office for National Statistics found the number of sick days taken by workers has fallen from 178m in 1993 to 131m in 2013. Last year, that marked an average of four sickness days for each worker, with more time lost due to back, neck and muscle pain than any other cause.

The 28-page report, Sickness Absence in the Labour Market, found that men have a lower absence rate than women, though the number of days has fallen for both sexes since 1993.

Men’s average percentage of days lost to sickness fell from 2.7 per cent to 1.6 per cent, while women saw a fall from 3.8 per cent to 2.6 per cent.

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Sickness rates last year were highest in the East Midlands, Wales and the North East, at 2.4 per cent, while London had the lowest tally, at 1.5 per cent.

Ami Naru, employment specialist at national law firm Irwin Mitchell, said the fall could be attributed to “tougher” procedures surrounding sickness.

However, she warned women are potentially losing out if they elect to take sick leave rather than request time off to take care of family issues.

Caroline Wood, co-founder of specialist human resources firm HR Heroes, said: “More companies will only pay statutory sick pay, especially since 2008.

“In other words, people cannot afford to be off.”