Is Sickness Absence Impacting Your Business?

By Helen Burrowes

HR Consultant

According to a recent report by ONS (Office for National Statistics) sickness absence days has increased.  Days lost due to sickness absence was 185.6 million in 2022.  This is a rise of 2.6% .

With absence costing the business on average £798 per employee per year (XpertHR), days lost due to absence puts a strain on the business operationally and can impact productivity.

What businesses can do to reduce absence levels.

Early assessment and rehabilitation practices are known to support employees, resulting in reduced levels of absence and an increase in the employee returning to work following absence.

The first consideration for the company is to look at ways to prevent absence.  One of the reasons for absence could be relating to poor mental health, linked to the workplace.  Looking at internal work processes recognising that processes may be causing stress, and then reviewing these practices can prevent any related absences.  

Providing resources for employees to use, to support their health may  reduce the amount of time that the employee is absent from work.  Resources include:

  • EAP (Employee Assistance Programme)
  • Telephone helplines
  • Health insurance
  • Internal mental health practices and including mental health first aid representatives

Line managers have a key role to play in reducing absence, supporting with the day to day management of employees, and recognising where the employee needs support.  Where an employee has been absent from work due to a medical condition, these managers can support the employee back into the business and are crucial in understanding the operational needs within the department versus any phased return or adjusted working programme. 

Having a phased return or adjusted working programme following a period of absence, encourages the employee back into the business. Employees returning after a period of short or long term absence can be daunting.

Sickness absence policy

Implementing a sickness absence policy provides awareness of the processes associated including:

  • How to report absence
  • Keeping in touch whilst absent
  • Pay whilst absent
  • Seeking medical advice e.g. occupational health
  • Return to work processes, and incorporating adjustments to support the return

All of these processes have associated tasks to keep communication channels open, provide support and inform of medical resources available, enable discussion around the expected return to work and what adjustments may be required, and continued awareness and support required whilst in employment. 

A further consideration for the company, is to ensure that people responsible for absence processes have appropriate training on how to manage sickness absence.  This is normally the role of the line manager, and without the appropriate training These managers often feel overwhelmed by these personal tasks, and without the appropriate training and support they may shy away from having absence discussions. 

Do you know your sickness absence days lost? At Nockolds HR we can provide support with your absence management processes including any of the topics within this article.   

To discuss your sickness absence processes, please contact our Nockolds HR Consultants on 0345 646 0406 or email