Large numbers going to work sick

A new survey shows high levels of workers are going to work unwell with low sick pay being blamed by experts.

Woman with a headache


Almost half of employees went to work sick and despite not feeling well enough to do their job properly, according to a new survey.

A survey of 6,000 workers by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development [CIPD] found Britain has among the fewest working days lost to illness in the developed world and that sickness absence rose last year as the economy reopened, from a record low in 2020. However, despite rising from 3.6 to 4.6 days a year, the average number of days lost to sickness has been falling steadily – from seven a year in the mid-1990s. Almost 36m fewer working days were lost in 2021 compared with 1995, a decline of a fifth to 149.3m.

The CIPD says one of the main problems is the low level of sick pay. The £99.35 a week statutory sick pay (SSP) paid by employers for up to 28 weeks is one of the lowest rates in the OECD group of economies. Unions and business groups say SSP needs to be brought closer to the real living wage of £9.90 an hour and £11.05 in London – the equivalent of £361.35 and £403.33 for an average working week.

Meanwhile, another survey by the CIPD of 2,000 employers has found that just 27% of companies across all sectors are willing to increase pay to retain or attract labour in Q2 of 2022. This comes despite 45% saying they were struggling to fill vacancies and two thirds saying they expect hiring shortages to persist for the next six months.

The poll suggests that the average pay increase in the second quarter will be 3%. While this is the highest level since the report began in 2013, it falls below average inflation of 9.1% in Q2, according to the Bank of England. The CIPD says that employers who are unable to raise wages in line with inflation are switching their focus to retention strategies. For example, 37% of employers said they planned to upskill people and 28% plan to advertise more jobs as flexible.

The poll also shows that employers remain confident about their employment intentions for the coming quarter. Recruitment intentions remain above pre-pandemic levels and almost three quarters (74%) of employers said they plan to recruit in the next three months. Only 6% of employers plan to decrease staff levels over the next quarter.

However, there are still problems finding candidates. The CIPD is warning that a lack of candidates will likely start to drag on growth, so it’s crucial that employers upgrade the skills of the existing workforce, including managers, to boost individual and organisational productivity.

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