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Managing Absenteeism in the Workplace

New research conducted by personal injury experts Claims has shed light on the significance impact of mental health conditions on workplace productivity. The study delved into the Office for National Statistics’ sickness absence data from 2018 to 2022, revealing that an alarming 18 million days per year, on average, are lost at work due to mental health issues. This underlines the pressing need for a comprehensive approach to employee wellbeing within the workforce.

The research highlighted that the UK workforce collectively loses an average of 146.6 million days each year to sickness-related absences, translating to roughly 4.5 days per worker or nearly a full working week. This statistic draws attention to the challenges employers face in maintaining productivity, especially during critical periods such as January when factors like flu season and post-holiday blues contribute to increased absenteeism.

The study identified the primary reasons for sick leave, with minor illnesses such as coughs and colds being the leading cause, resulting in an annual loss of around 33 million days. Notably, as Blue Monday approaches, the data disclosed that 12% of the working days lost were attributed to mental health conditions like stress, depression, and anxiety, amounting to the aforementioned 18 million days on average per year.

Examining demographic trends, the research found that workers aged between 50 and 64 lose the most days at work compared to other age groups, averaging 56.3 million total days lost per year. In contrast, the 16 to 24 age group exhibited a significantly lower loss, with an estimated 10.2 million days per year, 65.2% below the average. This divergence underscores the importance of tailoring workplace wellbeing initiatives to different age groups.

Gender disparities were also observed, with women reporting a 49.4% higher sick leave rate compared to men, accounting for 2.6% of their working days annually. Geographically, the study identified variations in sickness absence rates, with the North-East region, encompassing County Durham, Northumberland, Tyne-and-Wear, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, and Sunderland, reporting the highest rate. The East Midlands and Yorkshire and The Humberside followed closely, emphasising the need for region specific strategies for managing absenteeism.

Surprisingly, workers in Wales were found to take more days off than any other UK country, losing approximately 5.9 days per worker each year. In comparison, Scotland, England, and Northern Ireland reported lower averaged of 4.8, 4.4, and 4.4 days, respectively. These regional variations suggest the importance of tailoring workplace wellbeing initiatives to address specific challenges faced by different areas of the country.

Strategies for Managing Absenteeism

Mental Health Support Programs

Implementing comprehensive mental health support programs is crucial in addressing the root causes of absenteeism. Employee Assistant Programs (EAPs) can be introduced to offer confidential counselling and support services tailored to individuals facing mental health challenges. Additionally, conducting workshops and training sessions on stress management, resilience, and coping strategies empowers employees with the tools needed to navigate and overcome mental health issues. Creating a workplace environment that openly acknowledges and prioritises mental health can contribute significantly to reducing absenteeism related to these concerns.

Flexible Work Arrangements

Recognising the diverse needs of employees in their individual circumstances, introducing flexible work arrangements can play a pivotal role in managing absenteeism. Providing options such as flexible work hours or remote work allows employees to better manage their time, reduce stress associated with commuting, and achieve a healthier work-life balance. This approach not only addresses practical challenges faced by employees but also reflects a commitment to fostering a workplace that values individual wellbeing and recognises the importance of adaptability in today’s professional landscape.

Promote Work-Life Balance

A key factor in reducing absenteeism is promoting a healthy work-life balance. Encouraging employees to take breaks, utilise vacation time, and avoid overworking contributes to their overall wellbeing. Setting clear boundaries for after-work communication helps prevent burnout and ensures that employees have dedicated time for personal pursuits and relaxation.

Health and Wellness Initiatives

Establishing comprehensive health and wellness programs can address both physical and mental wellbeing. These initiatives might include on-site fitness facilities, yoga classes, mindfulness sessions, and educational programs on nutrition and healthy habits. By providing resources and opportunities that promote a healthy lifestyle, organisations empower employees to proactively manage their wellbeing, ultimately contributing to mitigating absenteeism and fostering a workplace culture that values the holistic health of its workforce.

Open Communication Channels

Creating a workplace culture that encourages open communication is fundamental in addressing mental health concerns. Organisations should foster an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their challenges and stressors with managers and colleagues. Training managers to recognise signs of distress and equipping them with the skills to navigate conversations about wellbeing is essential. Establishing open channels for communication ensures that issues are identified early, and appropriate support mechanisms can be put in place to address concerns before they escalate.

Sickness Prevention Programs

Implementing sickness prevention programs is a proactive strategy to managing absenteeism linked to minor illnesses. These programs can encompass initiatives aimed at promoting hygiene and health practices within the workplace. Providing educational resources on proper hand hygiene, offering vaccinations, and encouraging a culture of wellness can contribute to minimising the spread of illnesses. By fostering a workplace environment that prioritises preventative measures, organisations not only enhance employee health but also create a setting where employees are less likely to succumb to common ailments, thereby decreasing the overall number of sick days taken.

Geographically Tailored Initiatives

By understanding the specific health and wellbeing needs of diverse locations, organisations can implement targeted strategies. Collaboration with local health services and organisations ensures the relevance and effectiveness of wellbeing programs. Factors such as cultural differences, regional health concerns, and varying work-life dynamics can be taken into account when designing initiatives. This approach acknowledges the individuality of each workplace and promotes inclusivity by adapting wellbeing efforts to the specific context of each geographic location.

Regular Health Check-ins

Incorporating regular health check-ins into the workplace routine is a proactive measure to monitor and support employee wellbeing. These check-ins can take the form of one-on-one meetings, surveys, or focus groups to assess the overall health and satisfaction of employees. Managers can use these opportunities to inquire about work-related stressors, provide guidance on available resources, and address any concerns that may impact job performance.

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